Ex­ploited mi­grants to get $10,000 each

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

shop as­sis­tants. The court heard the em­ploy­ees were un­der­paid and over­worked. In ad­di­tion to shop as­sis­tant tasks, the work­ers looked af­ter their em­ploy­ers’ chil­dren, washed their cars, and cleaned their houses.’’

Prabh Ltd, and its share­holder and di­rec­tor cou­ple Ra­jwinder Kaur and Baljin­der Singh, were fined a to­tal of $132,000 for sig­nif­i­cant breaches of the Min­i­mum Wage and Hol­i­days Act.

The Mu­ru­para store was a gen­eral store, while the small Kop­uriki store sold liquor and petrol. Both stores are owned by Prabh Ltd and trade in­de­pen­dently. Prabh Ltd, Kaur and Singh will be placed on the stand­down list for two years and will be pre­vented from hir­ing mi­grant work­ers for that time.

The case fol­lows an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the labour in­spec­torate, first heard at the Em­ploy­ment Re­la­tions Author­ity, be­fore new em­ploy­ment leg­is­la­tion was in­tro­duced to ad­dress se­ri­ous breaches of min­i­mum em­ploy­ment en­ti­tle­ments, which al­lowed it to be moved to the Em­ploy­ment Court. The court ruled the treat­ment of the three em­ploy­ees was such a per­sis­tent breach over a long pe­riod of time, that it could not have been con­sid­ered un­in­ten­tional. The breaches in­cluded fail­ure to keep wage records and ev­i­dence of ret­ro­spec­tive cre­ation of em­ploy­ment agree­ments, go­ing back to 2014.

‘‘What’s even more con­cern­ing is that the man­agers had re­ceived pre­vi­ous re­minders from the labour in­spec­torate of their obli­ga­tions to pro­vide min­i­mum wages, hol­i­days and hol­i­day pay, fol­low­ing a com­plaint made by a former staff mem­ber.

‘‘Th­ese two em­ploy­ers took un­fair ad­van­tage of this sit­u­a­tion, and the judge agreed they had no in­ten­tion of pay­ing them what they were legally owed,’’ Ward said.

The court ac­cepted the three work­ers suf­fered sub­stan­tial fi­nan­cial losses, de­pres­sion, stress and anx­i­ety.

‘‘It’s dis­ap­point­ing to see em­ploy­ers tak­ing ad­van­tage of their em­ploy­ees, and gain­ing a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage over their law-abid­ing com­peti­tors,’’ Ward said. ‘‘Em­ploy­ers should know that where we have ev­i­dence of this oc­cur­ring, the in­spec­torate will take ac­tion. Mi­grant work­ers are a par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble sec­tion of the work­force. They have the same rights as all other work­ers in New Zealand but are of­ten less likely to be aware of th­ese. Ad­dress­ing this ex­ploita­tion is a pri­or­ity for the in­spec­torate and we con­tinue to work with other gov­ern­ment agen­cies to com­bat mi­grant ex­ploita­tion,’’ Ward said.

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