A complaint by Ucatt, Unison and the GMB unions has prompted Newcastle City Council to withdraw an advertisement offering unpaid jobs to trainees in its Build Maintenance Warehouse.
The adverts appeared last week on the website of Access Training, offering 30 hours a week traineeships with half a day of training. The unpaid traineeships were due to last for three to six months with the possibility of then qualifying for an apprenticeship paying £2.65 an hour.
Newcastle Council has denied authorising the adverts.
Ucatt regional secretary Denis Doody said: “The removal of these adverts is to be welcomed. These schemes are nothing short of exploitation. We need to remain vigilant to ensure that similar schemes are not offered by other employers.”
Although Newcastle Council denied that they had agreed to recruit unpaid trainees, Ucatt has other concerns about the council’s apprenticeship programme. The council is training ‘multi-skilled’ apprentices rather than fully training in a specific discipline such as carpentry, bricklaying, painting or plumbing.
Ucatt argues that by not fully training apprentices in a specific trade the council is reducing their transferrable skills, which will have long-term consequences for their employment potential and earning prospects. The union said that all apprentices should be given the opportunity of training to level 3 in a specific trade. If a company requires them to undertake additional roles, further training should then take place.
Mr Doody added: “Multi-skilling in apprentice training is yet another example of the devaluing of construction skills training. Young workers forced to undertake such training will always be at a disadvantage in the labour market.”