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Around the nation

Victorian news

Update on the gas ban

The Victorian Government’s fast-tracked decision to ban gas connections in new builds has been followed up with an announcement that it is now considering extending it to gas appliances in existing homes.

As of 1 January, this year, new home builds in Victoria that require a planning permit have been banned from connecting to the gas network.

In December last year, the Victorian Government updated its Gas Substitution Roadmap, announcing that it is also considering forcing households to rip out gas appliances in existing homes as part of a Regulatory Impact Statement process.

The initial ban on new homes occurred without any consultation with industry, was short on detail and sent shock-waves across our industry. While consultation for the next phase is welcome, Master Plumbers has warned that the community and the industry expect genuine engagement and input, not just a token process seeking to justify a foregone conclusion.

The need to move away from carbon-based fuels is not in question. In fact, the plumbing
industry has been at the forefront of the clean energy transition to a low carbon economy.

However, the rush towards electrification, without genuine consideration of the critical role gas can play is a knee-jerk reaction by a government chasing ambitious timeframes.

It is also difficult to understand how promises could be made about energy savings without engaging with the very businesses which help consumers and building managers make informed choices in homes, workplaces and public spaces about heating, cooling, hot water
and cooking.

Plumbing businesses are on the ground actively helping people reduce their carbon footprint and they see the limitations and costs that can come from choices that don’t deliver on consumer expectations.

It would be entirely understandable if consumers are becoming cynical about more government announcements on future energy savings when all they see is their bills increasing and choices being restricted. In the middle of a housing crisis and unprecedented demand for trades, the indications are that these moves will only impose further pain on renters, homeowners and small businesses who will bear a disproportionate cost.

Master Plumbers has attended initial consultations ahead of the release of a Regulatory Impact Statement, due to be released sometime this year.

Items flagged so far by government for consideration in the RIS include:

• Expanding the current gas connection ban on new homes requiring a planning permit
to include all new residential dwellings and some commercial buildings.

• Transitioning Victorians to electric appliances as older gas appliances reach the end of
their lives - including in existing homes and some commercial buildings.

We will continue to keep our members and industry informed and engaged as this process progresses.

Know the building equality policy

The Victorian Government has now officially introduced its Building Equality Policy (BEP) after a transitional period that ended in December 2023.

The BEP seeks to:

• Address the gender imbalance in the construction industry by introducing targets and
requirements for women on government funded construction projects; and

• Increase training and employment opportunities for women in a male dominated industry.

The BEP has three (3) actions:

Action 1: requires Contractors to meet minimum onsite targets of the total estimated project hours of:

• 3% for each trade position; and
• 7% for each non-trade Construction Award covered position; and
• 35% for each management/supervisory and specialist position.

Action 2: requires at least 4% of total estimated hours of work on the project for apprentices and trainees and cadets to be performed by women.

Action 3: requires Contractors to develop Project Specific and Organisation Wide Gender Equality Action Plans. Members who will be subject to these provisions should familiarise themselves with the BEP.

Members of Master Plumbers have been sent further detail and an information sheet outlining the changes. For more information contact Senior Workplace Relations Adviser, Phil Eberhard at [email protected] for advice.

For more information, visit www.vic.gov.au/buildingequality-policy

Why choose a plumbing apprenticeship

As the first term of the school year ends this month, many senior secondary school students
will be planning their futures. Many young people in a gap year might also be starting to  wonder what next. Plumbing apprenticeships make sense for many school leavers, those

looking to start a career and even those looking to switch careers.

In Victoria, we are fortunate to have an industry scheme for plumbing apprentices. This scheme has some strong advantages.

Here are the top five:

1. We pay more. We care more.

At Master Plumbers, we have a team of professionals whose job is to shape your apprenticeship experience. This dedicated team of Field Officers help to monitor your progress, help you troubleshoot and keep you engaged in work.

We also pay more than the Award:
• Above Award hourly rates in the domestic sector

• We will pay you as if you have completed year 12, even if you haven’t

• We will match the Union EBA rates when you are working in that environment

• We will pay you Fares and Travel, which amounts to approx $100 per week when you wouldn’t be entitled to it if working direct for a Plumber. We even pay this for you to travel to and from your Registered Training Organisation

• We allocate your centre of employment to one of our PICAC training centres which means your travel radius is bespoke to you

• We pay all Apprentices Incolink and convert your unused personal leave to portable sick leave upon completion, regardless of the environment you work in

• We pay Public Holidays at the rate where you are placed

• We average out your time working in Union EBA or Domestic environments and pay for your time at Trade School at the rate where you’ve spent the most time

2. Benefit from job placements in different plumbing companies in commercial, industrial and domestic sectors

Our Plumbing-specific scheme is the only one of its kind in Victoria.

We only do plumbing. The scheme is designed to make sure our Apprentices don’t get bogged down doing the same repetitive job for the term of their apprenticeship.

We have Host Employers working across greater Melbourne in numerous fields. As an Apprentice with PAV, our program seeks to move you to Host Employers who need a hand.

So, for your Apprenticeship you will get a greater variety of experience by being placed with many different types of plumbing companies in commercial, industrial and domestic environments.

3. Get access to our Private Registered Training Organisation in State-of-the-Art facilities The Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre (PICAC) is the most innovative training complex in Victoria.

Master Plumbers is the only plumbing training provider with access to these unique and highly sought after facilities.

4. Get through the VBA “Journeyman’s” exam the first time

Our graduating students exceed industry expectation. When it’s time to sit your final exam, our apprentices can rest easy knowing our average pass rate is in the high 90% range, far above the state-average.

5. Transition straight into employment when you finish your apprenticeship When you complete your Apprenticeship, you can seamlessly transition to our arm that handles qualified labour Plumbing Staff Solutions. Interested?
Contact the team at PAV:
Live in Queensland?
Contact Plumbing Apprentices Queensland (PAQ):

Tasmanian news

President’s report

The year has kicked off fast and we have lots to work on over the coming months.

There are some regulatory issues that we will be tackling including our push to have  plumbing licensing competency testing implemented for holders of RPL as well as tackling the ongoing issue of substandard roofing, and often illegal work, being undertaken by builders with a Restricted Roof Drainage Endorsement, which was introduced in 2018. We remain extremely concerned over some of the work being performed under this licence endorsement and will continue to lobby the regulator to ensure that if the endorsement is to remain, training is put in place and works are audited.

At the training level, we will be launching more online CPD courses throughout the year, which will be focused on industrial relations and technical subjects.

Lastly, a special welcome to Abco Bloc from Premium Plumbing and Gasfitting, who has just joined our Board. Abco brings a wealth of experience and professionalism to our Association, and we are really looking forward to having Abco on board and putting him to work!
Anthony Balik

A more meaningful connection

When workmates Andy and Craig decided to leave Tasmania’s Howrah Plumbing
and form their own business, it was on one condition. Kathryn Kernohan reports.
“At the time I was the project manager estimator at Howrah, which at the time was the biggest company in Tassie, and those two guys were my foremen on a lot of projects that we ran,” recalls Todd Curtain.

“They approached me and said ‘we’re going out on our own, but we want to do it with you, we need you to come with us.’ It took a bit of convincing, but that’s how things happened.”

Todd, Andy and Craig now run Hobart’s Moonah Plumbing, a locally owned and operated company bringing together more than 50 years of collective experience between the trio.

“It’s an equal partnership between the three of us. Andy and Craig are predominately on the tools and run our larger projects whereas I’m probably 50-50, I’ll run around and do the quotes for our mum and dad customers, schedule the other guys for work and also get out on the tools when I need to,” he says.

The business name comes from the Hobart suburb of Moonah, near the Derwent River, but there’s a more meaningful connection for Todd.

“My one condition when I came on board with the boys is that I said we’d have to call the business Moonah Plumbing. My father has passed away now, but when he was working for himself, he went by the name of Moonah Plumbing. He was a bit of a one-man band, driving around in an old ute, and I really wanted to get the name going again.”

It was Todd’s father that got him his start in the business. “He came and dragged me out of grade 10 and said, ‘I’ve got you an apprenticeship, let’s go’. I was a couple of weeks short of finishing grade 10 and he just said, ‘this starts next week, let’s go,” he recalls with a laugh.

And while Todd has had a couple of short stints away from plumbing, the industry has been his livelihood for more than three decades.

“It was good to see the other side of things - I had a short stint doing compliance work as a plumbing inspector with Glenorchy Council - but plumbing has been great to our family.

“My wife Sarah works in the office with us and we’ve got my son working for us as well. He’s a tradesman and I love that I get the chance to work with him on the tools,” he says. “Hobart is such a small place, the guy I was in business with when we were in our 20s works for us as well. He’s been my mate ever since we were apprentices when we first started out.”

When Moonah Plumbing began, the three owners mainly focused on residential new builds and renovation work.

Now, the team has grown to include eight plumbers, including two full-time maintenance and gas workers, and the work has expanded in turn.

“We do a lot of school maintenance, insurance work, renovation work, we do the maintenance for the Risdon Prison Complex and lots of little bits and pieces like that. Mum and dad customers keep us pretty busy with the day-to-day stuff, and we also do a little bit of wastewater work and minor to medium construction. We pump out a bit for a small crew,” says Todd.

Supporting a steady flow of apprentices - with two currently at the business - is also something Todd enjoys. “It’s great to see them grow from kids that have got no idea when they rock up to becoming valuable members of the team. And they all become mates, which is awesome.”

Tasmania’s construction industry was already booming prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was when Moonah Plumbing was founded.

“We’ve been going for five years now and we started just as the industry was about to hit its peak, which was a bit of good luck and good timing,” explains Todd.

“Like in other places, it’s slowed down since then, due to interest rates and other factors. But the Tasmanian Government is pouring a lot of money into social housing which we’re into, so that’s kept us rolling along nicely. Our regular building clients are also still pumping out properties for first homebuyers, so things are going well, and there are lots of opportunities for a business like ours.”

LPG cylinder adaptors

The Tasmanian Government’s Consumer, Building and Occupational Services has released new guidance notes following a recent incident in Western Australia, which has highlighted the risk associated with the use of LPG cylinder adaptors that convert the previous Type 21 (Prest-O-Lite – POL) valve outlet to the new LCC27 connection.

The incident highlighted that tightening an LCC27 connection onto an adaptor may loosen the POL connection at the cylinder valve due to the opposing threads and can lead to dangerous gas leaks.

‘Due to the increase in popularity of prefabricated and trailer-based structures for the use of homes has prompted CBOS to release guidance notes for prospective buyers and contractors engaged to connect them to services as well as providing clear guidance for the statutory approval process.”

The notes are available at
www.cbos.gov.au.

National news

Get some satisfaction

Young Australians who have completed an apprenticeship/traineeship or postgraduate
qualifications report stronger employment outcomes, earnings, and job satisfaction
than their peers, an Ai Group report has found.

Innes Willox, Chief Executive, Ai Group, said these strong outcomes might be due to the
more specialised, occupation specific nature of apprenticeships/traineeships, and to a certain extent, postgraduate degrees.

“This data tells us that education and training pathways that have a closer or more direct link to an industry or occupation can deliver strong outcomes,” Mr Willox said.

For more on the report, visit www.aigroup.com.au

Apply now for apprentice grants

Rheem Australia is encouraging Australian apprentice plumbers and gas fitters to apply for a share in $60,000 through the 2024 Rheem Apprentice Plumber Grants program.

This year Rheem has increased the number of grants on offer from 10 to 20, to support even more up-andcoming apprentice plumbers in the progression of their studies and help
launch their plumbing careers.

Recipients will receive $2,000 to assist with their TAFE/RTO fees and textbooks, and $1,000 to help build their essential trade toolbox.

Following a record number of applicants last year, Chris Taylor, Managing Director of ANZ, at Rheem Australia, says: “I encourage all to apply for a Rheem Apprentice Plumber Grants.

Apprentices have nothing to lose and everything to gain by applying.”

Applications for the 2024 Rheem Apprentice Plumber Grants program close at 11:59 pm on Sunday 28 April 2024. To apply visit, www.rheem.com.au/apprentice

Know the rules

New rules are now in place to limit the use of fixed-term contracts. This means employers can’t employ someone on a fixed term

contract:
• that is for longer than 2 years
• that has more than one extension option, or
• where the employee will be employed under consecutive contracts. There are some exceptions, and these rules don’t apply to casual employees.

For more information,
visit www.fairwork.gov.au

 

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