Apprenticeships and the National Minimum Wage

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2005 National Delegate Conference
25 February 2005

Conference notes that nearly 250,000 young people are engaged in an apprenticeship, formerly modern apprenticeships, with a significant proportion of these on public sector apprenticeship schemes. Apprenticeships give opportunities to young people and can bring new people into the public services, can provide progression routes to higher level skills and qualifications, and can also have the potential to bring in a new generation of trade union members.

Conference welcomes the schemes but believes there are flaws in their concept and operation some of which require negotiation with employers and others which require making representations to government. One of the most important flaws is the failure of apprenticeship schemes to be covered by the national minimum wage legislation, making them financially unviable, in some cases paying as little as £40 per week. This undoubtedly contributes to the low completion rate of apprenticeships which in 2002/2003 stood at only 27 per cent.

Conference also welcomes the excellent work undertaken by UNISON in submitting reports and evidence to the Low Pay Commission calling for payment of the national minimum wage on a rate for the job basis, not linked to age, and for a substantial increase in that rate.

Conference notes that UNISON is preparing a further submission to the Low Pay Commission for the next review of the national minimum wage.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

1)maintain the pressure for a decent minimum wage by supporting a substantial research effort jointly with other like-minded organisations that will provide further evidence on the need to abolish the inequalities of the national minimum wage;

2)ensure that the submission includes a call for apprentices to be covered by the national minimum wage as a safety net;

3)call on all branches to ensure that apprentices are included within their recruitment and organising efforts.