A migrant worker was paid $4 an hour while working in bars and liquor stores in South Auckland owned by two companies.

A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment labour inspector conducted an investigation into the employment of Hardeep Singh by Sharmas & Sons (2009) Limited and Sharmas & Sons Limited.

The Employment Relations Authority ordered the two companies to pay $87,300 in wage arrears and penalties in a decision published today.

Member of the Authority Rachel Larmer said in her decision published today that Singh was a vulnerable employee, being aged 19 and in New Zealand on a work visa.

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Larmer said Singh was reluctant to complain about his poor conditions of work because his employers said they would support him to get a permanent visa.

The companies had no written employment agreements or records of hours worked for Singh, but evidence showed his hourly rate was $4 an hour, with some hours of the week going unpaid.

Larmer considered the breaches "serious and significant" and imposed fines of $42,000 on the two companies, with $22,000 of the penalty to be paid to Singh.

The companies were ordered to pay Singh wage arrears totaling $45,300.

The two companies owned and operated Bellbird Tavern, Papakura Tavern, Tainui Tavern and Oaks Tavern in South Auckland, as well as Happy Liquor stores in Manurewa and Penrose.

Read the full decision here: