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A Great Win for the Unions: Queensland Apprentices to Receive $70 Million in Back Pay

In a pivotal legal victory, the Full Federal Court has confirmed that over 4000 Queensland apprentices are due to receive a collective $70 million in back payments. This decision marks a significant triumph for union advocacy, particularly the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), in their efforts to enforce fair wage practices.


A Great Win for the Unions: Queensland Apprentices to Receive $70 Million in Back Pay
A Great Win for the Unions: Queensland Apprentices to Receive $70 Million in Back Pay

The court's ruling dismissed appeals from Master Builders Queensland, the Apprentice Employment Network, and the Housing Industry Association, who sought to maintain outdated state awards for determining apprentice wages. The case, known as Master Builders Queensland & Ors v. All Trades Queensland & Ors [2017] FCAFC 167, firmly establishes that modern awards should supersede any previous state awards as of January 2014, aligning with the standards set by the Fair Work Commission.


This decision is a testament to the relentless efforts of various unions, including the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU), which have been instrumental in challenging the inequitable pay conditions under the 2015 apprenticeship agreements by All Trades Queensland. Their advocacy has paved the way for apprentices who were compensated below the modern award rate to now claim the wages they legally deserve.


Scott Reichman, an apprentice officer with the ETU in Queensland, lauded the court's decision as a crucial step toward correcting long-standing injustices in apprentice pay. He criticized the systemic exploitation by some employers in Queensland, pointing out that these outdated agreements had resulted in apprentices being paid less than their counterparts in other states for years.


It's indeed refreshing to see unions like the CFMEU leading the charge in fighting for the rights of young tradespeople, ensuring substantial financial redress and the upholding of fair labor practices. Ash Borg, a senior industrial officer at the CFMEU, noted the readiness of apprentices to register for back pay, highlighting the tangible benefits of the court's decision.


Despite the positive outcome for apprentices, there are concerns from industry leaders about the potential broader impacts on the sector. Grant Galvin of Master Builders Queensland expressed worries that the wage adjustments could affect the intake of new apprentices and the financial viability of businesses that rely heavily on apprentice labor.


This ruling is a powerful example of how collective action and union advocacy can bring about substantial improvements in conditions for young workers. As we continue to champion employment rights, this case serves as an inspiring reminder of the positive impact that dedicated and united efforts can have on the workforce.


For those interested in the full details of this case, the decision can be accessed on the Fair Work Commission’s website through this [link to the Fair Work decision](https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/decisionssigned/html/2017fwcfafc167.htm).

We remain committed to providing our readers with timely and accurate updates on significant legal and employment issues that impact workers across Australia.

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