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Non-unionised apprentices at risk of super-exploitation, young RMT members warn

NON-UNIONISED apprentices risk being super-exploited as cheap units of labour on the transport network, young RMT members have warned.

Delegates from across the transport industry said today that minimum wage apprentices must be a priority for recruitment with the current rail disputes. 

London Underground fleet delegate Freddie Seale said: “With all the restructuring going on the railways, there is a strong likelihood that companies will encroach on apprentices using a cheaper unit of labour to undermine RMT disputes.”

Mr Seale argued that outside of London, apprentices can be paid as little as £4.80 an hour and that the union was a major tool to keep them in the industry.

“We are passionate about organising apprentices and we want the union to support us so we can continue and develop that work,” he said.

Wakefield and Healy Mills delegate Mark Hall added his support, telling conference: “We have a real problem. Sixty/seventy per cent of our apprentices are not members.

“With the modernising maintenance plans of Network Rail — they want to use them as part of the team. 

“They will be sent out to work, often on minimum wage, and be left in a really vulnerable position.”

The unanimously passed motion called on the union to develop a national organising strategy for apprenticeships and devote lead officers to liaise with the young members committee on regular basis. 

Senior assistant general secretary Eddie Dempsey paid tribute to young RMT members developing new plans for the union and that the committee was going from strength to strength. 

Speaking to the Star after the vote, RMT young member and rep Rhys Harmer said: “Apprentices are disproportionately affected by low wages and fixed-term contracts. 

“With attacks on jobs on all train-operating companies, London Underground and Network Rail, there is a real risk that apprentices will be used as units of labour to cover jobs and reduce wage costs and then not gain a permanent contract.

“The need for a renewal on RMT’s apprentice organising strategy is needed to represent the future labour of the railway and protect vulnerable workers.”

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