Wineries told to check supply chains in wake of second worker exploitation case

The Labour Inspectorate is calling on the viticulture industry to thoroughly check their supply chains to prevent wine being produced by exploited labour.

Marlborough vineyard contracting company Double Seven Services and its owner have been collectively penalised $127,500 by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) for falsifying and failing to keep wage and leave records for 199 migrant workers.

“This is the second determination the ERA has made in two months, following an Inspectorate investigation, on a viticulture contracting company for exploiting workers. Despite this company ceasing to trade over a year ago, penalties and arrears will be pursued in full,” says Kevin Finnegan, Inspectorate Viticulture sector lead.

“It’s a must for all wine businesses to thoroughly check their supply chains to make sure their wine labels and products haven’t been produced in any way with exploited labour, as this can also have a devastating effect on its reputation. The potential for investors to withdraw from the industry because of poor social practises is high, if changes are not made,” Mr Finnegan says.

“There is also a call for the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand programme to include employment standards and labour hire components into the certification scheme for all the businesses they certify.”

In this latest case, Double Seven Services has been penalised by the ERA $85,000 and its sole shareholder Qin Zhang penalised $42,500, for 59 breaches of minimum employment standards, including underpaying wages and holiday pay, as well as not providing employment agreements for 104 workers. The workers were paid unlawful ‘piecemeal’ rates for their work.

Double Seven has also been determined to make wage arrears totalling nearly $8,000 and pay more than $5,000 for charging one worker a premium to have his job.

The ERA determined the full extent of losses to all employees is not known, as mandatory employment records weren’t kept by the company, so therefore total wage underpayments were more likely to be $65,000.

Employers are also encouraged to find out more about their rights and obligations.

Responsibilities of employers and employees

The Inspectorate encourages anyone who has information about minimum standards not being met to phone the MBIE’s service centre where calls will be handled in a confidential manner, on 0800 20 90 20.