A national campaign called ’Axe the tax in training’ was launched by the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) and Union of Students in Ireland (USI) in a bid to reverse a government decision to impose a new training fee on apprentices.

Starting in 2014, a student services fee of between EUR 833 and EUR 1 433 will be charged to apprentices who attend institutes of technology, despite many earning very low wages.

In support of the 7 500 apprentices across the country, TEEU general secretary Eamon Devoy considers this fee unfair and counterproductive. Everyone we’ve met is outraged with this and have no intention of paying it, he said. They have little or no access to the services for which they are being charged.

Speaking at the campaign launch Labour MEP Emer Costello, said: I believe that the new fee structure for apprenticeships is a retrograde step at a time when high quality apprenticeships can offer a viable solution to ending the scourge of youth unemployment. The introduction of these fees is premature and ill-conceived, particularly as we are still awaiting the completion of the review of the apprenticeship system in Ireland. Renewing and growing interest in vocational education is a critical step in addressing youth unemployment. The introduction of apprenticeship fees will make this task very difficult by creating a further disincentive to participation in vocational education.

Devoy said the student services charge on apprentices is: A tax on training that flies in the face of the European youth guarantee programme designed to maximise the number of young people entering the workforce across Europe. In fact Ireland is the only State in the European Union that has imposed such charges on apprentices. Other countries recognise the urgency of training for young people to combat the current unprecedentedly high levels of youth unemployment across the continent.

A spokeswoman for Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said apprentices who attended college were no longer treated differently from other students. She confirmed a meeting with the TEEU was declined as the decision would go ahead.

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