|Dive Master Trainee Story |
By James Travers-Murison -
photo courtesy Queensland Tourism
Senator Jan McLucas sees that there is a problem that needs solving with the Cairns Dive Tourist Industry. She believes that the Dive Master Trainee's should be placed under the State Training Council's traineeship program.
"The recreational dive industry needs government support to assist to train qualified dive instructors.
"At the moment dive trainees are not covered by an Award and so do not qualify for traineeship assistance.
"I am working with industry to identify a workable solution so that training of young people can be delivered.
"The industry is acutely aware of the need to continue ongoing training so that the number of instructors is maintained."
"Young Australian trainees would be recognised as important members of the recreational dive industry, where their safety, treatment in the workplace, job requirements and earnings would be clearly defined."
Steve Tresidder at the Department of Industrial Relations in Cairns says Cairns is rife with Dive Companies taking on young travellers for dive traineeships to get their Dive Master's ticket.
These young men and women work for up to 3 months for at the most $30 per day, sometimes for nothing. In return they receive dive training and get about 60 free dives.
They come under no award according to Steve. Until the Unions and Employers agree to regulate these trainees, he said there was nothing the government could do to protect and ensure minimum wages for these workers.
Steve said a couple of years ago these traineeships were going on a lot, but he thought it had stopped.
Why have the Dive Companies not sort to regulate and get government support through the State Training Council to create approved traineeship programmes for young divers?
Steve did not know, but said a lot of foreign backpackers were prepared to work for almost nothing to get their dive training and be on the reef.
He said perhaps this was a convenient situation for the employers.
A Centrelink representative in Cairns stated that many people tried to do these dive traineeships and claim benefits, however they are not entitled to do so.
Working full time would not allow them to fulfil their jobsearch requirements. The traineeships are not government approved and the wages offered are arguably illegal, she said.
Mick Dolman at the Maritime Union in Sydney said, "The employers won't agree to traineeships under government schemes, because the trainees are prepared to work for next to nothing.
"They are predominantly backpackers in Queensland, not relying on a steady income for earnings and can be easily exploited.
"The current commonwealth government policy is to encourage self regulation of the industry and this is like leaving Dracula in charge of a bloodbank.
"Employer workplace agreements can now bypass awards, so even these will not protect trainees.
"The Diving Inspectors have no teeth to enforce or penalise employers for breaches.
"Furthermore the ADAS, who run the professional divers body, look down upon the tourist recreational diving seeing it as for amateurs and not worth worrying about.
"This means the tourist diving industry is left in an unregulated mess, with private organizations like PADI and SSI organising their own operations without government supervision.
"Dive companies exploit this by using cheap labour trainees."
However Mick said the Union was about to start hard talks with the employers and government next month in Brisbane.
The big losers appear to be young Australians who want to become recreational diving instructors, because foreign backpackers on work visas are taking their places, using the lack of regulation to get free dive training with their holiday.
Steve Moon from Down Under Dive said, "Our company has been trying to get the government to support a traineeship for young trainees in diving for years."
"We are looking to have enterprise bargaining agreements arranged with all our employees.
"An award for trainees though useful, may therefore be unnecessary. We have no objection in principle if it is realistic in representing a wage dive companies can afford.
"Trainees receive up to $6,500 in training as well as a daily allowance and often food, clothing and accommodation on the boats.
"Our trainees work for up to 90 days, however this is to give them a broad training in diving, boat handling, hosting, maintenance, cleaning and learning to deal with tourists and teaching them diving.
"Training in 'safety' is a number one priority for us.
"In a highly competitive industry we do our best to get young travellers and tourists the lowest price for diving the Barrier Reef.
"Internationally Australia is a cheap place to obtain a dive certificate, perhaps too cheap.
"The Maritime Union has shown little interest in getting traineeships or an award.
"If a government assisted traineeship was put into place we could attract and train young Australians, instead of spending much of our resources on training foreigners, who most often leave the country taking their diving skills with them."
"It would be a big win for North Queensland tourism."
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