Migrant exploitation results in fine and home detention
Immigration New Zealand is warning employers; there will be rigorous prosecution of employers who exploit migrants
It follows the sentencing of retail company Sai Bliss Limited and one of its directors’, Bhupinder Bhardwaj in the Waihi District Court this week.
Failure to properly pay a migrant worker and observe his holiday pay entitlements over an almost 18 month period has resulted in a 12-month sentence of home detention for Bhardwaj and a $250,000 fine for his company.
It followed guilty pleas to charges of providing false information to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and exploitation charges under the Immigration Act for failing to observe the Minimum Wage and Holidays Acts.
An investigation into Sai Bliss and Bhardwaj found, despite agreeing to pay an employee on a work visa $18 an hour in his employment agreement, the employee was paid just $250 a week and consistently well below the minimum wage. In some weeks, the employee’s hourly rate of pay was under three dollars an hour. Bhardwaj told the employee his rate of pay would not be changed and also threatened to have his visa terminated.
Investigations revealed the employee was owed over $73,000 in minimum wage and holiday pay arrears.
INZ Assistant General Manager Peter Devoy describes the case as ‘significant exploitation’, and he’s pleased with the strong deterrence message the sentences send.
“The exploitation of migrant workers by paying them less than minimum wage, forcing them to work excessive hours and threatening their visa status – such as happened in this case - is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated by Immigration New Zealand.”
“This is happening all too often in NZ, and we won’t stand by and let it happen. Where there is evidence, we will investigate and prosecute.”
INZ encourages anyone who believes they are being exploited in the workplace to get in touch with authorities.
• To report a case of migrant exploitation. Contact the MBIE Service Centre 0800 20 90 20.
• For cases of people trafficking call the local police, or 111 (if it is an emergency).
• To report an issue anonymously call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via an online Crimestoppers form.