Wednesday, August 29, 2007

When Is An Apprentice Not An Apprentice?

Many non-union employers still don’t understand the rules regarding the use of apprentices on public works construction projects. In New York, if an apprentice working on such a project is not registered in a State approved apprenticeship training program, he/she must be paid at the journeyworker’s rate. I'll bet that most, if not all States have similar statutory provisions. Absent registration in such a program, the inexperienced person who knows spit about the trade and was making $10.00 per hour on private work must be paid perhaps triple that wage rate together with benefits; they cannot be paid at the apprentice wage rate stated in the prevailing wage schedule. The failure to pay the journeyworker's rate to an unregistered apprentice could result in a willful violation of New York Labor Law.

What’s that you say? You’ll just register them and be done with it? It’s not so easy. See my post entitled “My Kingdom For An Apprenticeship Program” for more on the extreme difficulty in having employer-sponsored apprenticeship programs approved and registered in New York. As for existing programs held at the local BOCES, etc., many require that a minimum number of persons be enrolled in order to proceed with the program during a particular semester. This can make it difficult for small contractors who wish to register one or two employees; in such cases, the employer may be left with the unenviable choice of paying the unregistered apprentice at the much higher journeyworker's rate or not utilizing their services at all on public works projects.

And so it goes.

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