Olde Berry Farm Limited and its director were ordered by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) to pay $76,532 for employment law breaches uncovered by the Labour Inspectorate.
The business was ordered to pay $50,000 in penalties and $16,532 in unpaid minimum wage and holiday pay. Managing Director Andrew Peter Molloy was made personally responsible for an additional $10,000 in penalties.
The farm came to the Labour Inspectorate’s attention in 2017, when they investigated another farm, Matangi Berry Farm Limited, which operated on the same orchard.
The investigation showed employment law breaches in respect of 304 Olde Berry Farm employees. The majority of these related to poor record keeping and failure to provide workers with employment agreements. The farm also failed to pay 150 employees their correct holiday pay entitlements. Five employees were found to be paid below the minimum wage.
“It is imperative that employers treat their workers properly,” says Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager Kevin Finnegan.
“This grower sells produce to supermarkets, which also compromises the supply chain of those supermarkets. Ultimately, this compromises supermarket customers who do not expect unlawful and exploitative practices to be associated with the fresh produce they purchase.
“This is the second poor result we have seen from the horticulture sector over the past month, which is particularly disappointing given the work the Inspectorate has undertaken work with the sector to assist them with getting their employment practices on an assured and legal footing.
“Many workers were young migrant workers, who were less likely to be aware of their rights and particularly vulnerable to being taken advantage of.
“The ERA determination sends a clear message that businesses and individuals like Mr Molloy, cannot get away with exploiting workers,” Mr Finnegan says.
The Matangi Berry Farm case investigated by the Labour Inspectorate is currently before the Employment Court.
Anyone concerned about their employment situation or someone else’s employment situation should contact Employment New Zealand where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment.