Work­ers de­mand pay

Chilean staff say vine­yard avoided wages

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - By BROOKE GAR­DINER

A pay row has erupted over for­eign work­ers be­ing paid un­der the ta­ble at a vine­yard linked to David Hen­der­son. Hen­der­son, who is fa­mous for his rows with the IRD, re­fused to con­firm he was the owner of An­them Vine­yard, where three Chilean men claim to have worked un­der the ta­ble for six weeks this sum­mer, but ad­mit­ted he had ‘‘in­ter­ests’’ in the vine­yard. The Com­pa­nies Of­fice web­site lists him as the sole share­holder of FTG Trustee Ser­vices Ltd, which owns An­them Vine­yards Ltd. The Mir­ror be­came aware there was a pay dis­pute be­tween the men and vine­yard man­age­ment af­ter the men sought sup­port from the Cromwell Food Bank when they hadn’t been paid. Ni­co­las Valen­zuela, Al­fonso Cordero and Raul So­tomayor, who all hold valid New Zealand work visas, claimed last week

they were still owed money for work they did at An­them for six weeks from De­cem­ber 21. ‘‘We said we wanted the work, but we wanted a con­tract and we wanted to pay tax. They said no tax, no IRD and no con­tract. When we said, ‘no we must have a con­tract’, they said ‘the boss is away on hol­i­day so won’t be able to sort out a con­tract un­til they are back’,’’ Raul So­tomayor said. Un­happy with the ar­range­ment but des­per­ate for work, the trio agreed to start work­ing for $15 an hour, he said. Ni­co­las Valen­zuela said they were em­ployed to do wire lift­ing at the vine­yard. ‘‘Af­ter four weeks we re­ceived our first pay­ment of $900 each,’’ he said. They were told they had not been paid the full amount be­cause the man­ager was on hol­i­day and there was not enough money, he claimed. How­ever, two weeks later and still out of pocket the men stopped work­ing and claimed they were given dif­fer­ent ex­cuses for not be­ing paid which in­cluded com­plaints about their work ethic and clock­ing hours they hadn’t worked. When asked to com­ment on Fri­day Mr Hen­der­son said he knew noth­ing about the in­ci­dent or the men. Mr Hen­der­son con­firmed he still had ‘‘in­ter­ests’’ in the vine­yard but would not dis­cuss those. ‘‘I re­solved not to talk to the me­dia a long time ago and this con­ver­sa­tion has far ex­ceeded that,’’ he said. Claim­ing they were des­per­ate to get some of the money they were owed, the Chilean men sought ad­vice from Mike Grif­fiths, of Cromwell Chalets where they were stay­ing. ‘‘They told me they were owed $3000,’’ Mr Grif­fiths said. Hop­ing to sort the mat­ter, Mr Grif­fiths phoned An­them su­per­vi­sor Cameron McDow­ell who re­fused to tell him who the owner of the vine­yard was. Mr Grif­fiths said Mr McDow­ell’s fa­ther Steve then told him the men had been ‘‘noth­ing but trou­ble’’ and that his son ‘‘couldn’t con­trol them’’. ‘‘I think Cameron ended up paying them out of his own pocket, his mother turned up later with three che­ques for $800,’’ Mr Grif­fiths said. When the Mir­ror con­tacted Cameron McDow­ell he de­clined to speak on the record but said the com­pany ac­coun­tant paid the men in full on Fri­day. He de­clined to name the owner or the ac­coun­tant. Neigh­bour­ing Mt Rosa viti­cul­tur­ist Gary Crabbe said he re­ferred the three men to Mr McDow­ell af­ter hir­ing them through Sea­sonal So­lu­tions ear­lier in De­cem­ber. Mr Crabbe said he re­ferred them on as a favour to both par­ties as he was aware An­them was des­per­ate for staff and the men wanted work. How­ever, the men were not good work­ers, he said. ‘‘They were ter­ri­ble, atro­cious. Their stan­dard of work was very poor.’’ Mr Crabbe said some of his other staff had also worked at An­them and ex­pe­ri­enced dif­fi­cul­ties get­ting paid. He was also un­sure of the own­er­ship. The men left Cromwell last week and plan to head to Nel­son to find more work. They con­firmed on Mon­day they had re­ceived full pay­ment on Fri­day.

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