Six apple packhouses break employment law

Improvement notices were issued to six apple packhouses with details of the breaches and steps needed to rectify these. Photo / Glenn Taylor
Improvement notices were issued to six apple packhouses with details of the breaches and steps needed to rectify these. Photo / Glenn Taylor

Six apple packhouses have been found in breach of employment law after a joint government agency crackdown on the industry.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said enforcement action had been taken after nine packhouses in the Tasman region were visited by the Ministry's Labour Inspectorate earlier this month.

It was part of a joint audit with Immigration New Zealand and Inland Revenue to check for compliance with employment, immigration and tax laws.

In two-thirds of the packhouses breaches were found, including using non-compliant employment agreements, failing to keep accurate employment records and failing to pay holiday pay correctly.

Only one packhouse was found to be compliant. Two others were issued with requests to produce their records for audit as they were unavailable at the time of the visit.

Labour Inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan said six improvement notices were issued with details of the breaches and steps needed to rectify these, which included paying back-wages owed to staff.

"The level of non-compliance identified during this operation was disappointing, especially the failure to have compliant employment agreements and time records," said Mr Finnegan.

"These are basic requirements all employers need to fulfil to ensure they are providing staff with their legal entitlements."

An improvement notice describes the employment law breach, the date and steps by which the employer must comply. If this does not happen the labour inspector can seek enforcement through a compliance order from the Employment Relations Authority and if this is ignored can lead to penalties.

Mr Finnegan said the Ministry took employment law breaches very seriously and was working proactively to crack down on them throughout joint operations targeting sectors and a- risk workers across New Zealand.

Employers who breached the employment law would be subject to enforcement action which could include penalties of up to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for companies.

He called for people to come forward if they knew of situations or were in a situation where there were breaches of employment contracts and wages. He encouraged people to call the Ministry contact centre on 0800 20 90 20 where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment.

- NZ Herald

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