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MBIE recovers $71k in arrears owed to Whangarei sushi bar workers

A total of $71,454 has been recovered in unpaid public holiday and holiday pay entitlements for 54 current and former employees of eight Whangarei sushi bars.

Following an investigation by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Labour Inspectorate.

The Labour Inspectorate, together with Inland Revenue, visited nine sushi bars to check their compliance with employment and tax laws, following reports of general non-compliance. Eight businesses were found non-compliant.

Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager Kevin Finnegan says investigations into the eight bars revealed serious breaches of employment laws including failure to keep time and wage records, provide employment agreements, pay minimum wages, holiday pay or public holiday entitlements. All of the businesses visited employed migrant workers.

Six businesses were served Improvement Notices, one closed and one has been referred to the Employment Relations Authority for penalties. Two businesses were required to pay arrears as high as $25,460 and $28,758.

“The exploitation of migrant workers – such as paying less than the minimum wage – is not acceptable, and breaches New Zealand law. MBIE takes these breaches very seriously and is working proactively to crack down on it through joint compliance operations targeting sectors and at risk workers across New Zealand.

“Failure to produce and maintain accurate records was a major contributor to non-compliance, with a total of 20 breaches identified. Without accurate time and wage records, the employer cannot demonstrate they are providing their employees with the correct entitlements.

“Employers who breach employment law will be subject to enforcement action, including penalties of up to $50,000 for an individual and the greater of $100,000 or three times the financial gain for a company,” says Mr Finnegan.

MBIE 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.