Sadly employing an apprentice plumber has become an expensive luxury for many small plumbing companies throughout Australia. This is due to the complexities of the Fair Work Act, to their high wages and the length of time away from work on holidays and at TAFE training.
This has been further exasperated by the explosion in sub-contracting with 65% of all plumbing businesses being a one-person operation who employ no staff at all.
As an industry, if we don’t train for the future, then we have no future. This is why we at Whywait Plumbing have always made it a policy to employ and train at least three apprentices at any given time. Even throughout the GFC in 2008-10, we maintained employment and training for four apprentices.
If you go to university, you don’t get paid and incur a hex debt that you eventually payback for your study. However, if you become an apprentice plumber, your employer pays you for the entire four years of your training, every week, with annual increases.
Currently, the archaic document that purports to be a ‘Modern Award’, the Plumbers and Fire Sprinklers Award 2010 requires a first-year apprentice plumber who has completed year 12 to be paid $13.18 per hour. If the apprentice plumber is aged over 20, he starts on $19.07 an hour. Compare this with how much you will get paid to attend university in the first and subsequent years.
Apprenticeship numbers have been declining for the last 20 years. Much of the reason for this is due to decisions 20 years ago to focus everyone at high school on obtaining a university education. This has lead to many young people graduating with degrees and then being unable to gain employment in their chosen field of study.
The importance of well-trained plumbers to society as a whole cannot be underestimated. Plumbing as a trade will continue to exist and ensures young people taking up apprenticeships will always have a good job and a good future.
Interestingly apprenticeship completions at 64% is almost on par with university graduations of 67%. In plumbing, 80% of those who never finish their apprenticeship drop out in the first two years.
This decline in numbers of plumbers as a whole available to be employed has been brought home to us in recent months. We have been advertising for two licensed plumbers at that time, and these are fulltime jobs, not casual or sub-contract. It’s been alarming at how few plumbers applied for the job. Interviewing potential employees has been an intriguing and challenging exercise.
Dillon Lowes installing new sewer pipes at Niecon Plaza
We have employed two new employees in the last month as an apprentice plumber and welcome to Whywait Plumbing, Scott Moir and Dillon Lowes.
Unlike many of our competitors, we don’t employ sub-contractors, so everyone who works at Whywait Plumbing is a full-time employee. That means everyone working here is paid for six weeks of annual and personal leave plus two weeks of statutory holidays. Sub-contractors don’t receive those benefits plus they have to pay their own superannuation and work cover.
The combination of a reduction in plumbing businesses employing an apprentice plumber and the numbers of plumbers retiring means there is a shortfall of 13% between the number of plumbers available and the demand for plumbers.
All of these issues are increasing the cost of employing plumbers. This, in turn, increases the cost for plumbing businesses to undertake work across the board in both construction and maintenance. Ultimately it’s always a balancing act between supply and demand.
Illegal plumbing products have always created considerable angst for licensed plumbers as plumbing products without a WaterMark certificate have not been illegal to supply. But for a licensed plumber if you install an illegal plumbing product you can be fined on the spot up to $2523.00 for each illegal plumbing product you install.
Amazingly a catalyst for change in Queensland occurred in London in June 2017. The deaths of over 80 people in a fiery inferno in the 24 storey Grenfell Tower sent shock waves around the world.
The actual fire started in a fridge in an apartment. It then rapidly spread up the entire external cladding over the length of the building as can be seen in the photo on the right.
The cladding and insulation that had recently been installed in a building refurbishment, failed all preliminary tests by the police.
Experts claim the fire resistant zinc cladding that was originally specified was replaced by the builders with an alternate aluminium type cladding that was less fire resistant. This alternate cladding saved the builders $510,000.00 which of course was extra profit for them.
Here in Australia like in many other countries the increased risk to buildings and safety by builders and suppliers substituting products was deemed to be an unacceptable risk.
The Queensland Government has lead the way with new laws on non-compliant building and plumbing products. This was especially so after it was found that the recently renovated PA hospital had non-compliant external cladding where a fire would spread rapidly similar to Grenfell Tower.
The distribution and installation of non-conforming, non-compliant and unsafe building products can represent a risk to the health and safety to everyone.
The Queensland Parliament recently passed the Building and Construction Legislation (Non-conforming Building Products-Chain of Responsibility and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2017, regarding the use and sale of non-conforming building products.
These new laws further strengthened how compliance must be achieved with the recent amendments to the Queensland Building and Construction Act 1991, the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002, and the Building Act 1975 in relation to non-conforming building and plumbing products.
These laws create a chain of responsibility so that designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of building products now have as much responsibility as installers to ensure a product is compliant and fit for intended purpose.
These laws also give the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) new powers to investigate the manufacture, sale and use of non-conforming building products. These laws are the first of their kind in Australia.
Positively now illegal building and illegal plumbing products are regarded as non-conforming or non-compliant for an intended use if;
the product is not, or will not be, safe; or
does not, or will not, comply with the relevant regulatory provisions; or
the product does not perform or is not capable of performing, for the use to the standard it is represented to conform by such as Watermark certification.
These new laws now create a chain of responsibility for reporting non-conforming building or plumbing products to QBCC. This duty applies if any person in the chain of responsibility becomes aware, or reasonably suspects, that the building or plumbing product installed is non-conforming for an intended use.
As Licensed Plumbers, it has always been illegal for us to install non-conforming illegal plumbing products. However, it is now illegal to for anyone to supply non Watermarked products.
At Whywait Plumbing we will be complying with the new laws and in future will notify the QBCC immediately if we discover non-conforming, non-compliant illegal plumbing products.
Ultimately these new laws are for the protection, safety and security of everyone.
How to read your water meter is a simple task to learn. It is a DIY priority as it’s a guarantee if you live in an individual residential house that you will have your own individual water meter. This applies to most duplexes as well, but some duplexes and group or strata-titled properties will have only one water meter which reads all water used on the property in its entirety, no matter how many homes are located within the property.
Locating Where Your Water Meter Is
It is your responsibility to ensure that your water meter is accessible for the council meter readers to read the meter at all times. But you do not own the meter as it remains always council property.
On all residential properties the water meter is easy to locate as it will be located:
around 500mm from the left-hand or right-hand side boundary and about 500mm back from the front boundary on the council grass verge
for its protection from damage, it will be below ground level in a plastic or concrete pit with a plastic or metal lid marked ‘Water Meter.’
Water Leaks Are YOUR Responsibility
If you are the registered property owner then very simply you are responsible for the pipes and fittings that are connected to the council water meter that is anywhere inside your property.
The diagram above clearly illustrates from a Gold Coast Water perspective as to where their responsibilities finish and where yours start. Remember it is always the registered property owner who is responsible for paying for all water that is recorded as having gone through the water meter. This includes any water used that is lost due to internal leaks in taps or toilets or concealed underground water main pipe leakage.
How To Read Your Water Meter & Check For Leaks
Here at Whywait Plumbing we always recommend a periodic but regular reading of your water meter to check for any concealed leaks on your property. The short City of Gold Coast video below demonstrates exactly what you need to do to read your water meter.
Remember a regular but simple preventative procedure of reading your water meter can potentially save you thousands of dollars in council water charges. Frequently most leaks are not visible as your water pipes are always underground or inside walls or the floor.
If in doubt on how to read your water meter or suspect you have a concealed leak act now and call Whywait Plumbing now to get the repairs you need.