Young apprentices are easy targets for exploitation by greedy bosses, according to employment law experts.
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan said young apprentices are particularly vulnerable to wage theft.
“Young people starting their working career often don’t know their workplace rights, or are too afraid to speak up,” he said.
“Dodgy bosses take advantage of that and refuse to pay them their proper wages and entitlements.”
Young apprentice plumber paid $11.07 an hour
21 year-old Aiden Martin (pictured) started a plumbing apprenticeship with a Brisbane-based company.
However, his two bosses paid him just $11.07 an hour when the award stipulated $19.07.
“The fact that they were charging me out as a fully qualified tradesman, at $90 an hour, and I was only seeing $11 of that, and the fact that I was putting in the hard yards every day, it was pretty draining,” he said.
“It was hard to keep any form of positive relationship with those guys.”
At the end of his three-month probation period, Martin approached his bosses and demanded they back-pay him his stolen wages. Instead, they sacked him.
“I wasn’t asking for more money, I was just asking for what I was entitled to,” he said.
WAGETHEFT.net.au subsequently negotiated $15,000 compensation for the young apprentice.
Young apprentice hairdresser paid $4 an hour
15 year-old Alanna West started a hairdressing apprenticeship at a Sunshine Coast salon.
Her boss paid her an appalling $4 an hour. He also failed to pay superannuation and refused to allow West to take lunch breaks.
“I knew it was wrong. I went and got their lunches instead of eating mine,” she said.
When West challenged her boss about her pay and conditions, he fired her.
WAGETHEFT.net.au also negotiated $15,000 for the teenager.
Wage theft inquiry
The experiences of Martin and West form part of a submission by Mr Heffernan to the wage theft inquiry currently underway in Queensland.
“Unfortunately, we hear these stories every week,” he said.
“It’s outrageous that both employers of these young apprentices chose to deliberately steal their wages, and then sack them when they asked for their money.
“It’s disgraceful and it happens far too often.”
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Hairdresser facing court for underpaying young apprentice
Meanwhile, in a separate case, hairdresser Jakoub Abboud is facing court for allegedly ripping off a 15 year-old apprentice.
Abboud, who runs the Hair-Rass Me salon in Sydney, allegedly underpaid the apprentice $14,507 over 12-months in 2015.
The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges in one instance, after the teenager worked a 50-hour week, Abboud paid her just $300, instead of the $654 she was entitled to.
Abboud also allegedly failed to pay superannuation and failed to reimburse the apprentice for a required training course.
He faces penalties of up to $12,600 per contravention and his company up to $63,000 per contravention.
The Federal Circuit Court has listed the matter for later this month.
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