Kiwifruit growers support labour prosecution
Kiwifruit growers support labour prosecution, stress compliance
Thursday 9 June 2016
There is no place in the kiwifruit industry for people not complying with employment law, with growers backing the recent prosecution of a Bay of Plenty contractor, along with industry-wide initiatives to support compliance.
NZ Kiwifruit Growers Inc (NZKGI) Chief Executive Nikki Johnson says growers strongly support the Government prosecuting people who break the law, following the announcement today by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) of serious breaches of employment law by a Bay of Plenty kiwifruit contracting business.
“The overwhelming majority of our industry complies with labour regulations and we have an ongoing work programme with government agencies to educate growers and contractors about their legal responsibilities to their workers”.
“Kiwifruit is a major contributor to regional economies and we take our responsibilities to our community very seriously – we strongly condemn these illegal and unprincipled actions,” says Ms Johnson.
ERA ruled that the contractor Freemind Enterprize pay $161,343.67 in wages arrears. The company was also fined $65,000 in penalties for not having written employment agreements, records for wage, time or holiday pay, and for failing to pay minimum wage to one employee.
NZKGI has an ongoing programme to educate growers and contractors about their responsibilities under the law and has been working with other agencies to establish an “ID card” for workers in viticulture and horticulture along with the broader horticulture industry and labour experts.
“This means growers can see at a glance that everyone on their orchard can work in New Zealand and is legitimately employed. The scheme was launched in late March and has been very well received by industry, with around 500 cards issued in BOP, 200 in Marlborough, 200 in Hawke’s Bay and 30 in Tasman at the end of May”.
“We are also working with NZ Master Contractors Inc on a pilot scheme for contractors to ensure best practice across the kiwifruit contracting community, providing systems, training and support,” says Ms Johnson.
Ms Johnson encourages anyone who knows of illegal labour practices in the kiwifruit industry to contact NZKGI and MBIE.