Federal Election: What the major parties plan to do for tradies

As the 2022 Federal Election draws closer, Australian unions are united in the condemnation of a lack of job security, high taxes, wage theft and low wage growth for tradespeople.

This is what we know about how the Liberal and Labor parties' plan to make life easier for tradies.

Michele O'Neil speaking at outdoor rally
President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Michele O'Neil says the Coalition's plan to resurrect the Omnibus Bill is bad news for tradies. Source: Getty

Labor policies that affect tradies

Labor has pledged to:

  • Legislate secure work as part of the Fair Work Act, which will affect tradies and other workers who have been on casual conditions for full-time work.

  • Limit the number of consecutive fixed-term contracts an employer can offer for the same role with the aim of creating more secure work, an ongoing issue for tradies.

  • Introduce a Secure Australian Jobs Code that aims create more secure work for projects using government funding.

Cranes at Australian waterfront construction site
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has welcomed the Coalition's plans to reintroduce the Omnibus Bill if re-elected this month. Source: Getty

Another big issue for tradies is wage theft, which is reported to cost Australian workers more than $1 billion each year. Labor plans to make wage theft a “national crime” by taking action against employers guilty of the practice.

Labor also claims it will add thousands of tradie jobs by ensuring one in 10 workers on major government projects is an apprentice, trainee or cadet. Labor says that under the Coalition there are at least 70,000 fewer people doing an apprenticeship or traineeship now than 10 years ago.

Election banner
Election banner

Labor’s plan for Fee Free TAFE aims to target the skills gap in critical workforces, such as the trades. Labor will set up 465,000 fee-free TAFE places for Australian students studying in industries with a skills shortage, including 45,000 new places.

Graphic highlighting Liberal policies on the left in blue and Labor policies on the right in red
How the policies of the major parties compare

Coalition policies that affect tradies

The Coalition has committed $2.8 billion in incentives to train new apprentices and trainees on top of $7.8 billion this financial year to keep apprentices and trainees in jobs throughout a Covid-19 affected economy.

Already, the Coalition has boosted the Apprenticeship Commencements Program for three months to 30 June 2022, providing employers with a 50 per cent wage subsidy for taking on a new apprentice or trainee.

A raft of funding to build new trade positions also includes:

  • The Completing Apprenticeship Commencements program, which provides a 10 per cent wage subsidy in the second year and a 5 per cent wage subsidy in the third year.

  • $2.4 billion for the Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System that will provide support to employers and apprentices in areas of needed skills, as identified by the National Skills Commission.

  • Provide a boost to regional apprentices through an additional 5 per cent wage subsidy in their first year on top of the 10 per cent support provided through the Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System.

  • $22.6 million for more than 29,000 additional in-training support places for regional apprentices.

The Coalition has also committed $482 million to build female participation in the labour force through enhancing paid parental leave and incentives for them to take up non-traditional trade apprenticeships.

Contrary to Labor’s figures, the Coalition claims it has boosted the number of trade apprentices currently in training to 220,000 – the highest level since records began in 1963.

Technician repairing air conditioning unit
The ACTU says tradies will be worse off under a re-elected Coalition government. Source: Getty

'Kill the bill' - unions

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) claims tradies are worse off under the Coalition, particularly if it resurrects the “dangerous” Industrial Relations Omnibus Bill if re-elected on 21 May.

“The Morrison Government is leaving the door open to bringing back their dangerous IR Omnibus Bill, which includes changes to Greenfields agreements which would cut pay for tradies. Mr Morrison has also done nothing to prevent huge numbers of secure jobs being turned into insecure labour hire or casual contracts,” ACTU President Michele O’Neil said.

“In contrast, the ALP has committed to creating secure jobs as well as increasing wages and providing proper funding for skills training.”

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