ERA orders Dunedin bakery to pay $299k after Labour Inspectorate investigation

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered the Dunedin based Romeeco Bakery owner to pay $299,038 in arrears and penalties.

A Labour Inspectorate investigation found that the employer failed to pay employees correct wages, holiday and sick leave pay in breach of the provisions of the Employment Relations Act 2000, the Minimum Wage Act 1983 and the Holidays Act 2003.

The ERA ordered the owner of the bakery, Anesly Joy Samuel, to pay penalties of $139,000 to the Crown and a total of $19,000 to the three employees.

The ERA also ordered the employer to pay $141,038.24 to the employees for arrears of minimum wage, annual and public holiday entitlements and sick leave.

Regional Manager Southern Jeanie Borsboom says the labour Inspector found the workers were paid wages for 40 hours per week when, in reality, they were working in excess of 80 hours per week. "As a consequence, the remuneration actually paid to the workers did not meet the applicable statutory minimum wage rate when having regard to the total number of hours worked," says Ms Borsboom.

The employers did not maintain timesheets and asked one of the employees to provide false and misleading information on minimum wages, public holiday payments, annual holiday entitlement and work location to the Labour Inspectorate and Immigration New Zealand.

The owner, Mr Samuel, also repeatedly threatened the workers attempting to stop them from continuing with the case.

"The Labour Inspectorate argued that there were a number of aggravating features in this case that warranted the imposition of penalties at the higher end of the scale," says Ms Borsboom.

Declining the request for permanent non-publication, the ERA noted in its determination there is overwhelming public interest in compliance with, and enforcement of, minimum employment standards. "Errant behaviour of the type exhibited in this determination should not be shielded from the public gaze by a conveniently constructed legal blanket."

"This decision sends a clear message that businesses that exploit their workers face severe penalties. We encourage workers who have been exploited by unscrupulous employers to come forward and seek advice from the Labour Inspectorate," says Ms Borsboom.

The Labour Inspectorate encourages anyone concerned about their employment situation or the situation of someone they know to contact the Employment New Zealand service centre where concerns are handled in a safe environment.