Trustees of Jesus Aroma Church, set up to promote and advance Christianity in New Zealand, has been ordered to pay more than $164,000 by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).
The Church were exploiting two vulnerable migrant workers and even taking premiums or payments from them for providing them with jobs.
After receiving donations from Korean Churches, the trustees of the Church – Victoria Jeon, Joseph Jeon and Misun Leem – ended up employing pastor and migrant Song Choi at Dunedin Taekwondo Academy for cleaning the facility and helping with the warm-up of the students. The Academy was operated by trustees of the Church as a commercial entity.
While Song was supposed to be employed as a pastor at the Church, he worked as an assistant to the qualified Taekwondo instructor, Andrew Jeon, who was similarly exploited.
The ERA ordered the trustees to pay Song $71,848 as arrears for wages, holiday pay and the premium of $64,172 that he had paid to the trustees. In Andrew’s case, the trustees have been asked to pay him $49,634 for the premium he had paid earlier, including the outstanding interest. In the ERA ruling, the Labour Inspectorate has been asked to recalculate his wages and holiday pay arrears.
The ERA also ordered the trustees to pay $42,750 as penalty for the breaches in minimum employment standards.
Head of Compliance and Investigations, Labour Inspectorate, Stu Lumsden says this was an elaborate scheme by the trustees, who targeted vulnerable migrant workers.
“The situation was unfortunate for these migrant workers whose visas were tied to the employer, who chose to breach New Zealand employment obligations,” says Stu.
“Moreover, these workers lacked access to support services, and they had no knowledge of what they were signing up for as the agreements were in English, which was not their primary language.
“The trustees failed to provide wages and time record, which is in blatant violation of their employer’s responsibilities and is an attempt by the trustees to avoid paying the correct dues,” Stu said.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has been leading an in-depth review to better understand temporary migrant worker exploitation in New Zealand to identify effective and enduring solutions with its second report scheduled to be released later this year. The Government introduced the Worker Protection (Migrant and Other Employees) Bill in 2022, which will offer more protection and support to our migrant worker communities.
The Labour Inspectorate encourages anyone concerned about their employment situation or suspect they may know someone exploiting migrant workers to phone the Ministry’s Service Centre on 0800 20 90 20, where concerns are handled in a safe environment. Interpreters are available for this service.
More information can be found on the migrant exploitation page.
Alternatively you can fill out the web form: