Masala restaurant boss Rupinder Singh Chahil sentenced over exploitation

By Lincoln Tan

Rupinder Singh Chahil was the third person involved with Auckland Indian restaurant chain, Masala, who have admitted to underpaying and exploiting migrant workers. Photo / Nick Reed
Rupinder Singh Chahil was the third person involved with Auckland Indian restaurant chain, Masala, who have admitted to underpaying and exploiting migrant workers. Photo / Nick Reed

An Auckland restaurateur was sentenced to six months' home detention and ordered to pay $2500 in reparation on immigration and exploitation charges this morning.

Rupinder Singh Chahil, 44, was the third person involved with Auckland Indian restaurant chain, Masala, to have been found guilty of underpaying and exploiting migrant workers.

Chahil, a New Zealand citizen, was sentenced at the Auckland District Court after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to a representative charge of providing false or misleading information to an immigration officer.

The court heard that one staff member, an Indian national, was made to work about 66 hours a week and was paid around $3 an hour.

Chahil offered the staff member, named only as Robin, work as an assistant manager at the Mission Bay Masala Restaurant.

He signed all the documents under the name of Joti Jain, a director and shareholder of Goldlink Enterprises Limited, and was also the employer of workers at the Masala chain.

These documents were given to the worker who forwarded them to Immigration New Zealand.

The offer of employment and agreement stated the worker would be paid as assistant manager at $15 per hour for a 30 to 40-hour week.

But the staffer, who was granted a two-year work visa to January 2013, continued to be employed as a waitress and also had to occasionally clean Jain's house.

By the time she left her job after 10 months she was owed wages and holiday pay of more than $23,000.

Jain was sentenced in October last year to 11 months' home detention, 220 hours' community work and ordered to pay almost $58,000 reparation.

A second defendant, Rajwinder Singh Grewal, was sentenced to four and a half month's home detention and ordered to pay almost $5000 reparation.

An investigation by INZ found that in all, four Indian nationals were significantly underpaid between 2012 and 2014.

They were forced to under-record the hours they worked, return some of their pay back to their employer and were not paid any holiday pay.

Immigration Assistant General Manager Peter Devoy said the sentences sent a very strong message that migrant exploitation will not be tolerated.

"The overriding principle is that migrant workers have the same employment rights as all other workers in New Zealand," Devoy said.

"We will not tolerate employers who exploit migrant labour for their own commercial advantage and will not hesitate to prosecute in cases where warranted."

- NZ Herald

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