Sophie Ryan is online editor for the Business Herald

Grocer fined $53k for migrant exploitation

Migrant worker Jaspreet Singh was awarded more than $28,000 in wage arrears and the repayment of premiums paid to his employer. Photo / Hawkes Bay Today
Migrant worker Jaspreet Singh was awarded more than $28,000 in wage arrears and the repayment of premiums paid to his employer. Photo / Hawkes Bay Today

A Wellington grocery store has been ordered to pay more than $53,000 in penalties and arrears after forcing a migrant worker to pay more than $10,000 in "premiums".

The Employment Relations Authority made the orders after a Labour Inspector investigated the employment law breaches against migrant worker Jaspreet Singh.

The Inspector found Singh was not paid the minimum wage or holiday pay by Sun 2 Moon Limited and was forced to pay his employer more than $10,000 in premiums.

"The exploitation of migrant workers in New Zealand is unacceptable," says Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager Loua Ward.

Sun 2 Moon Limited, a grocery store located on Willis Street in the Wellington CBD operated by Luv Kumar Khatter, required Singh to pay more than $10,000 in premiums, by way of a payment of $5,000 upfront, $3,240 in regular small cash payments, and $2,167 funding company expenses on the employees personal credit card.

Sun 2 Moon has not operated in eight months. A new grocery store, Indian Spice Land, managed by different staff has opened in its former location on Willis Street.

"No employer should require employees to pay premiums or pay wages back. Employees must be paid for all hours they work, and employers are required by law to keep proper time and wage records for all staff," says Mrs Ward.

The ERA ordered this money to be returned to Singh and said premiums like those he paid were an abuse of power especially when the employee is a migrant worker.

The grocery store was ordered to pay Singh $28,781.23 for minimum wage arrears, reimbursement of premiums and holiday pay arrears and a total of $25,000 was ordered to be paid as a penalty for breaching the Minimum Wage Act, Employment Relations Act, Wages Protection Act and Holidays Act.

MBIE said targeting employers that exploit vulnerable migrant workers was a key focus area for the Inspectorate.

"The level of non-compliance identified during this investigation was very disappointing given the significant breaches of minimum employment standards," says Mrs Ward.

"This ruling sends a clear message to employers that failure to comply with minimum employment labour standards will not be tolerated."

The Ministry 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.

Read the full decision here:

- NZ Herald

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