2Cheap Cars is seeking legal advice over what it says are "unjust claims" by some of its staff alleging racial abuse by a manager.

Chief executive Eugene Williams also denied his car groomers' claims that they were often required to work more than eight hours without extra pay, did not have protective gear such as gloves and masks, and did not get smoko breaks.

He rejected a claim by the car groomers' spokesman Nainesh Lathiya that a manager used "very bad words" to the 25 groomers, who are mainly Indian students supported by the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU).

"We reject this claim strongly and [are] disappointed that the EPMU would make such unjust claims without any evidence," he said in a text to the Herald.


"We are in contact with our lawyers at Wynyard Wood about these serious allegations."

The car groomers walked off the job yesterday and contacted the EPMU, which supported a picket outside the East Tamaki workshop today.

"Yesterday we got to the internet and studied and then we came to know what are our rights," said Mr Lathiya, who managed the workshop until he lost his job in what he described as an "unjustified dismissal" after he requested a pay rise.

He said the car groomers were paid the minimum wage of $14.75 an hour for an eight-hour day but were commonly required to work 12 hours for no extra pay. They were also required to use dangerous chemicals without gloves, masks or other protective gear.

"They don't put any safety shoes on. None of them are getting hand gloves. They are using very highly poisonous chemicals to clean the cars and none of them are having masks or safety vests," he said.

"They ask and they are told, 'It will come, it will come.' Sometimes people have to use the gloves from the rubbish bin. They just tell you, 'You can leave just now.' That happened to more than 10 people."

Mr Lathiya said most of the workers needed the jobs for their immigration visas so they felt powerless.

"They don't pay extra for working on public holidays, even on long weekends they get the normal pay. They don't give you breaks, only a lunch break of 20 or 30 minutes and then they call you to work, no smoko breaks."

EPMU organiser Louisa Jones said her union complained to WorkSafe about the unsafe working conditions, and asked the Human Rights Commission to provide an independent mediator.

Mr Williams said the company would cooperate with the two agencies.

"But at the same time I will not be strong-armed and blackmailed by the EPMU to give them dollars to join their group with their tactic of claiming untrue things such as racial abuse," he said.

The company's general manager Garry Moore later issued a statement saying the car groomers' statements were "totally incorrect" and were being used "to mislead and manipulate both the union and the news media".

He said the dispute was "manufactured by a couple [of] disgruntled employees who walked off the job after failing to secure a pay rise".

"To say that car groomers are required to work beyond eight hours for no extra pay is absolute nonsense," he said.

"We have the pay records here that show car groomers who choose to work the hours are being paid for those hours. For example we have weeks when some of our groomers are earning $1000 while others are earning $300. It is a flexible work environment where those who choose to work longer hours get paid for them."

He said he would welcome "any sort of inquiry or investigation that is based on the truth".

"I have a trail of emails and texts from former employees who are responsible for spreading misinformation. These texts and emails directly to me tell a very different story to what is being reported in the media," he said.

A WorkSafe spokesman confirmed that it had received a complaint and was considering whether to investigate.

The Human Rights Commission confirmed that it also received a complaint and was assessing it.

Companies Office records show that 2Cheap Cars is owned 50 per cent each by Mr Williams and Yusuke Sena, who is listed as living in Remuera.

The company owns 22.73 per cent of Kiwi Regional Airlines, which announced today that it has bought a 28-year-old Saab 340A aircraft from SprintAir in Poland for about $2 million to start air services between Dunedin and Queenstown, Nelson and Hamilton.