Kiwifruit picking company to pay $30k for employment law breaches

Repeated failure to meet minimum employment standards meant a Kiwifruit picking company from the Bay of Plenty was penalised $30,000 by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).

Aulack Enterprises Limited, and its sole director, Hardeep Singh, were first issued an improvement notice by the Labour Inspectorate in 2014 for failing to pay minimum wage. Despite this warning, a visit by the Inspectorate in mid-2016 found more issues.

“It’s surprising to continue to find breaches in an industry which is calling out for more workers, as generally people aren’t throwing their hands up to work for employers that don’t meet the minimum standards,” says Labour Inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan.

“The workers affected were primarily casual workers or travellers on working holiday visas, and less likely to understand their employment rights, which suggests an element of exploitation by this employer who was taking advantage of their ignorance or inability to find other work.

“As this case demonstrates, repeated breaches of employment law will result in serious penalties. While the whole sum of money owed to the employees was $487.65, it was the persistent and deliberate nature of the breaches that lead to a $30,000 penalty for Mr Singh.

“All employees in New Zealand must be provided with their minimum employment entitlements, including a written employment agreement, and at least the minimum wage for every hour worked. Employers must keep adequate records to demonstrate this.”

The Inspectorate uncovered 12 breaches of employment standards at the company during their investigation, including a failure to pay minimum wage and holiday pay, as well as unauthorised deductions from the pay of workers.

Anyone concerned about their employment situation, or the situation of someone they know, should call 0800 20 90 20 where they can report their concerns in a safe environment.