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Kiwifruit employer owes $226K after breaching employment law

9 June 2016

BOP Kiwifruit employer owes $226K after breaching employment law

A Bay of Plenty kiwifruit contracting business was ordered to pay more than $226,000 by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) in arrears owed to workers and penalties for breaching the employment law after an investigation by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

MBIE’s Labour Inspectorate investigated Freemind Enterprize Ltd following a complaint by a former worker. The investigation revealed the employer did not have written employment agreements, wage and time or holiday records for 121 employees that were hired to harvest kiwifruit in the Bay of Plenty between 2009 and 2013. These documents are a requirement under the law and need to be kept by employers for six years.

The employer also failed to provide these workers with holiday pay and time and a half pay for work performed on a public holiday. One employee was also denied minimum wages.

The ERA has ordered Freemind Enterprize Ltd to pay $161,343.67 plus interest in arrears to workers and $65,000 in penalties for the above failures. Mr Gurmail Lally, director of the company has been made jointly and severally liable for the amounts owing.

Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager Natalie Gardiner says the Inspectorate is committed to ensuring those who are avoiding their obligations as an employer, including directors of companies, are held personally liable. The inspectorate is in the process of contacting the former employees of Freemind Enterprize Ltd listed on the determination.

“It is likely that a number of these employees were temporary migrants who may have already left New Zealand,” says Mrs Gardiner.

“The Inspectorate recognises that migrants are a particularly vulnerable section of the workforce and may often be reluctant to take action against their employer. This case makes it clear that failure by employers to provide such workers with all entitlements will not be tolerated.

The names of the employees are listed at the end of the ERA determination. MBIE encourages the named employees to call its contact centre on 0800 20 90 20 with their IRD number and contact details.

ERA determination: http://dol.govt.nz/workplace/determinations/PDF/2016/2016_NZERA_Auckland_165.pdf

[ends]


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