The Guardian 23 November, 2005

Forced to travel 240km for $8.90

A father of three from Wagga Wagga in southern NSW is being forced to travel 240 kilometres to work for $8.90 an hour. The 36-year-old mature age electrical apprentice had been working with a Wagga-based national enterprise when his supervising tradesman quit. His replacement was based in Leeton, 120 kilometres away.

The apprentice, who does not want to be identified because he is worried about future employment opportunities, was given the option of making the two-hour trip or camping out in accommodation that Electrical Trades Union (ETU) organiser Matt McCann says, "you wouldn’t put a pig in".

The ETU advised the apprentice that he was entitled to travel in the company’s time or be paid for excess travel time.

When the apprentice raised this with his supervisor he was told that if he didn’t like it he could camp in rundown company huts or leave.

The hut option would have seen him spending three to four nights a week away from his family in conditions Mr McCann described as "filthy and disgusting".

The wage rate was another cause for concern, with the ETU concerned it could deteriorate further, given the push to enable the Fair Pay Commission to set apprentice rates.

The mature aged apprentice started on a first year wage of $6.80, the award minimum.

"Most employers will pay mature aged apprentices on trades assistant rates", says Mr McCann. "Under the new laws those travelling allowances and arrangements he is currently entitled to would be a thing of the past."

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