“Employers who exploit vulnerable workers by making them pay premiums in exchange for a job, breach New Zealand law and it will not be tolerated,” says Labour Inspectorate regional manager Loua Ward.“This practice takes advantage of migrants who may not be aware of all their rights and entitlements in New Zealand, or may not feel like they have any other option.”
Raw N Fresh Limited and its director Amardeep Singh, who had traded as both ’Drury Lane Fruit and Vegies‘ and ’Waiuku Fruit and Veges‘, originally located on Kitchener Road, demanded the newly employed shop manager pay $20,000, then reduced their demand to $18,000, in exchange for supporting the employee’s visas.
Both times the employee refused to make the payments sought by Mr Singh, choosing instead to leave his job at Raw N Fresh Limited and report the matter to the Labour Inspectorate.
On 29 September 2016, the Labour Inspector served an audit report on Raw n Fresh, which sets out the facts in relation to the premiums sought and her conclusions. A copy of the audit report was attached to the agreed statement of facts.
It was reported that during the time of the audit, Raw n Fresh initially hindered the Labour Inspector’s investigation, as claimed in her audit report. This was done by denying that the employee was employed by it or that a premium had been sought.
“It is my view that the breach by Raw n Fresh was serious. The employee concerned was a migrant worker dependent on Raw n Fresh’s support for his immigration status. He was in an inherently vulnerable position. Raw n Fresh deliberately took advantage of the employee’s vulnerability by seeking payment of a premium by him on two occasions,” said Member of the Employment Relations Authority, Anna Fitzgibbon.
The outcome was determined on 23 March 2017 and half of the $12,000 penalty is to go to the employee.
“We understand it can be difficult for employees to come forward and raise concerns about the way they are being treated by an employer,” says Loua Ward.
“The Labour Inspectorate takes these matters very seriously and is part of an all-of-government approach to combating migrant exploitation in its various forms.”
The Ministry encourages anyone in this situation, or who knows of anyone in this situation, to call its contact centre on 0800 20 90 20 where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment.