Revealed: The New Zealand employers caught exploiting workers

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has named and shamed them its latest published stand down list.

The list comes after a crackdown on employers who breach immigration and employment law, and it includes some of New Zealand’s best-known companies.

Fast food restaurants have a reputation for low pay, but several managed to sink even lower by failing to even pay the minimum wage.

Burger King’s parent company, Antares Restaurant Group, has been barred from hiring migrant workers for a year following accusations of under-paying staff. A Burger King worker wasn’t paid for extra hours during her shifts, and established that altogether she was getting below the minimum wage.

“Migrant workers are the most vulnerable to exploitation because their visa conditions often tie them to one employer,” says Unite Union national secretary Gerard Hehir.

“It’s time to call it what it is – wage theft. It is a huge problem in New Zealand and around the world.”

Burger King said all salaried staff will now be required to clock in and out. It says that will address what it says is an “isolated issue”.

MBIE told Newshub the stand down list is important “because all New Zealand employers must comply with minimum employment standards, and migrant workers in particular can be vulnerable to employers who fail to comply with those standards”.

“The Government is introducing stand-down periods during which time employers who flout the law will be banned from recruiting further migrant workers,” former Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said in February when the crackdown was announced.

“It is simply unacceptable that those employers who exploit migrant workers are still able to recruit from the international labour market and disadvantage those employers who do the right thing.”

Earlier this year two former Auckland Domino’s Pizza franchise owners were found to have underpaid staff by more than $54,000. The Domino’s franchises in Henderson and Te Atatu failed to comply with minimum standard employment obligations, affecting some 112 staff.

“Domino’s conducted a thorough wage audit after a staff complaint in relation to the particular store and team member wages,” a Domino’s spokesperson told Newshub.

“As a result, the franchisee was removed from the business and any underpayments of team members found were immediately rectified.

“Domino’s expects all of its franchisees to comply with their New Zealand employment law obligations.”

Also in the firing line were Gengy’s Management Limited – which runs the Gengy’s Mongolian BBQ Buffet franchise chain – and Indian restaurant chain Shamiana.

“The vast majority of these workers were migrant [mostly Korean or Japanese] students doing part-time or casual work waitressing, bar tending, or in the kitchen,” says Labour Inspectorate regional manager David Milne.

“Migrant workers have all the same employment rights as Kiwi workers, and there are no acceptable excuses for employers to fail to meet all their obligations under New Zealand employment law.”

Gengy’s Management was also contacted for comment by Newshub but didn’t repy.

The abuse of travellers and migrant workers has also been called out after several investigations.

Earlier this year the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ruled Tai Tapu’s Robinwood Farms Limited was guilty of exploiting thousands of travellers through a volunteer scheme.

A witness statement from a worker provided to the ERA recalled ‘inhumane’ living conditions, where they slept in small storage areas and were fed food from waste bins and spoilt meat. Volunteers worked up to 40 hours per week, but were only paid $120 per week.

The plight of migrant workers in our orchards and on fishing boats in New Zealand workers has also been called out, with offenders racking up hundreds of thousands in fines and compensation.

The Ikeda Suisan Company was ordered to pay $122,252 for breaching employment law while commercially fishing in New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone after failing to record workers’ hours.

“These are clear breaches of the employer’s obligation to keep accurate time and wage records, and pay minimum wage for every hour worked,” says Labour Inspectorate national manager Stu Lumsden.

“These employees were in a vulnerable position, with it being unlikely they would’ve been aware of their rights and entitlements, the exploitative nature of these breaches is disappointing.”

And Waikato’s labour hire company BBS Horticulture has been fined just under $60,000 after the Labour Inspectorate discovered numerous Chinese employees were working in breach of their visa conditions, and without records of employment.

Anyone concerned about their employment situation, or the situation of someone they know, should call 0800 20 90 20 where they can report their concerns in a safe environment.


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