Thursday, April 11, 2013

The full and unabridged story of how we lost, more than once. Part #1°

It's not always about winning.

Disappointments are a part of life.

Be patient. It will happen eventually.

You are already blessed with so much.

These are the things that keep rolling around in my head. As I try to convince myself that the slighted feeling I have in the pit of my stomach has no place.

It's just that I .. we all, needed a WIN so badly.

Haven't we been patient enough? I'm going in circles. Here's how it goes.


A few months after we got married in 2009 Hunna decided he wanted to be a carpenter. We knew that while he was studying it would be financially difficult but we took the leap with faith that, in the end, we would be better off.

At the time a carpentry apprenticeship took 4 years to complete.

I was pregnant by the time he took a pre-apprenticeship at our local Tafe in Launceston.

The Pre- Apprenticeship would cut 6 months off his first year. Meaning he would now finish in 3.5 years.

After looking unsuccessfully for an apprenticeship in Launceston we decided we would have a better chance if we moved to Geelong where we could have the support of his family and where the housing market was booming in contrast to the Tasmanian market, which at the time, had begun to slow down.

I handed in my resignation at the disability support centre I had been working in at the end of November and two weeks later at 4 months pregnant we moved to Victoria.

Hunna took up a job as a labourer for his Dad, who owns a business, while we continued to look for employment for both him and I. We also moved in with his parents because we weren't financially able to support ourselves.

We promised ourselves that we would both have jobs soon enough and our accommodation was a short term fix.

What we found after applying for almost a hundred jobs meant we were up against it from
the beginning.

A stigma is attached to mature aged apprentices. One that means, due to the poor pay, they are more likely flake soon after starting an apprenticeship.

They also cost more to employ than apprentices under 25.

What I myself found, after the Christmas period, and now 5 months pregnant -was that nobody was willing to take on a pregnant employee. I received more than one rejection letter which stated it wouldn't be beneficial to hire me since I would be leaving/taking leave when the baby was born.

After nearly four months in Geelong, we were starting to loose hope when Hunna got a phone call from a guy who said " his résumé was the best by far " and that he was willing to give him a two week trial on apprenticeship wages so they could both be "sure" - before signing him up.

He said if Hunna stayed, he would back date the start date of his apprenticeship.

We were both ecstatic and he started his trial the following Monday, March the 28th.

That first week was a tough week. With a new physical vocation, Hunna came home with blisters on his fingers and fell exhausted into bed each night. But we had hope.

On the Friday, the guy shook his hand, said come back next week, and gave him just under $300 cash for his troubles.

I was shocked, Hunna had worked a 38 hour week. I knew the wages of apprentices weren't great, but I thought they were a little better than what he had been given.

On investigation -we had been underpaid.

Still, with the hope of a long wanted apprenticeship, Hunna went back the following week.

The next Friday the pay was a little better. The Boss agreed to sign him up. He even offered to pay him above average wage because at the time the Government had an incentive for employees with mature aged apprentices.

They would pay the employee more to pay the mature aged apprentice more.

We thought we had made it.

Unfortunately while all the contracts were being signed the Boss decided it wasn't financially beneficial enough for him to pay Hunna more. So he reneged the contract stating Hunna would be paid $17.30 an hour.

Instead he would be paid minimum wage and the Government would send the extra support payments of $150 a week to us (this was a new incentive for mature aged apprentices) It wasn't as good a deal for us and the support payments only lasted two years. But, after making various phone calls, there was nothing we could do.

We knew it had taken us this long to find employment and we really wanted to move out. So we took solace in the fact we would at least get government assistance for his apprenticeship. We could apply for various centrelink allowances and once the dust had settled we could move out.

We later found out, because Kyle was getting the weekly mature aged bonus and still working Saturdays with his Dad to beef up our income, we weren't eligible for AUS study.

We were therefor ineligible for a healthcare card and rent assistance ( because we lived with his parents)

The lady sat across from me at the centrelink office and told me if we stopped the Saturday work we could be eligible for AUS Study, I asked her how much it would be. She said it would be a reduced payment because of our earnings and would only amount to $39 extra a week.

It wasn't worth the bother. As Hunna was paid a decent wage on Saturdays by his Dad, that was worth three times as much.

We looked at our finances and realised that we couldn't afford to move out.

On Friday May 14th I went into labour. Kyle called in and said he wouldn't be coming in to work. Boy was born later that day. We had the weekend in the hospital. Hunna took Monday off to bring us both home. He returned to work on the Tuesday.

We just couldn't afford any more time off.

Hunna would work overtime almost every day but because the Boss was classified as a particular business and under a certain number of employees he didn't need to pay us overtime.

Instead the over time was converted to time off. Which could be cashed in as a lump sum as he progressed through his schooling if he decided not to take the time off.

What we weren't told was that a first year apprentices holidays aren't worth as much as a second or third years.

By the time Kyle turned third year, he had been forced to work in inclement weather - come home cold and near hypothermic, he had been belittled -called horrendous names, told he cost too much as a mature aged apprentice and been left unsupervised on sites illegally.

By April last year his Boss had slowly been letting people go.

We knew it would be Hunna's turn soon, he had been letting people go under the premise he was running out of work, a stipulation which makes it much easier to sever the contract.

We knew, however, from his past comments. He 'made more money when I only had one apprentice'.

By the time it was our turn we believed we had quite a few hours of holiday pay to cash in. We thought we could live off it while Hunna found a new apprenticeship somewhere else.

When we cashed it in, all the overtime Hunna had worked in two years was worth little more than $100.

Because by then he was a third year and his holidays from first and second year had been compacted.

If we'd have known he would've just taken the time off each year before he completed and moved up.

His Boss had duped us again.


N.b: if I am wrong about anything it's because nobody has ever sat us down and explained anything legally about apprenticeships and contracts and clauses without their own agenda being in play.

So all the information I have is from what I have researched on my own about each situation.

Think typing " Why doesn't my boss have to pay me overtime" into google.

Pretty sad, I know.


Sandy M. said...

So sorry to hear that Jess. It is pretty sad and you must be feeling lousy. What are you going to do now? I wish I knew someone who could take on the apprenticeship..

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