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Horticulture labour for hire contractor to pay $428,000 for serious employment law breaches

A labour contracting business working on a vegetable farm in Bombay Hills must pay $428,164 in arrears and penalties for their breaches of employment law following a Labour Inspectorate investigation.

Binde Enterprises Limited was ordered to pay $220,000 in penalties and $208,184 in arrears to its 75 employees by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) for its failure to pay minimum wage, provide holiday pay, or keep accurate wage or time records.

“The Labour Inspectorate has zero tolerance for labour contractors who fail to meet the clear standards set out in New Zealand employment law,” says Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager Kevin Finnegan.

“Taking advantage of vulnerable workers such as migrants, who may not know what their rights are in New Zealand, is taken very seriously by both the Inspectorate and Immigration New Zealand.

“Where we find this kind of exploitation occurring we will ensure that there are severe consequences for any businesses involved,” says Mr Finnegan.

Concerns about Binde Enterprises Limited were first raised by the Inspectorate during a visit to a Sutherland Produce Limited farm on 16 April 2015, during one of their proactive investigations into the horticulture industry.

Interviews with several of Binde’s employees on the Sutherland Produce Limited farm, where Binde held an exclusive labour supply agreement, led to the Inspectorate launching an investigation into Binde’s compliance with employment law.

Through further interviews with Binde’s employees and an analysis of records provided by Sutherland, the Labour Inspectorate built a body of evidence called “overwhelming” and a “compelling case of migrant labour exploitation” by the ERA.

Sutherland pleaded guilty last year to four charges under the Immigration Act 2009 for allowing persons not entitled to work in its service, work, and was fined $7500.

“Not providing your employees with their basic legal entitlements such as a minimum wage or holiday pay, or keep employment records, is simply not acceptable.

“This case reinforces the importance for horticulturalists to ensure contractors that they bring on to their property are meeting employment standards.

“Those who use contract labour should keep in mind if the price is too good someone is being short changed. By not undertaking due diligence they risk their brand, or even potential legal liability.

“This sort of behaviour also undermines the confidence of consumers when making a purchasing decision, that they are not endorsing any form of exploitation,” says Mr Finnegan.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment encourage anyone concerned about the employment situation of themselves or someone they know to call its contact centre on 0800 20 90 20, where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment.

You can read the full ERA decision online (external link) .