A "well-known" horticulture and viticulture contractor in the Hawke's Bay and Eastern Bay of Plenty areas is to be penalised for failing to pay four young female Singaporeans in 2017.

In a newly released decision from the Employment Relations Authority, a labour inspector identified Gautum Rajan Kapur, also know as Kapoor, breached employment laws multiple times.

It said he owned and operated a number of businesses and different companies within the industries.

At an investigation meeting, the Employment Relations Authority was given a list of 16 companies Kapur had been closely associated with.

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Qiyin Aw, Pui Yee Amy Lim, Gwendaline Hui Fen Ang and Poh Toon Ling were employed to prune kiwifruit in an orchard in Pukehina during their time in New Zealand on their first-ever working holiday.

They all gave evidence via a telephone conference call.

The workers met with Kapur on September 19, 2017, at the Awakeri Hot Springs, and discussed the job and pay.

English was not their first language and they had little knowledge of New Zealand employment law.

Nothing was put in writing, but they were told they had jobs and to meet the next day at 8am at the Pukehina orchard owned and operated by Joba Orchard Ltd.

The decision signed by authority member Rachel Larmer said Kapur "subsequently did provide them with some documentation, but that occurred after the workers had already worked on 20 September 2017".

"Mr Kapur gave the workers blank individual employment agreement templates, IRD forms, and pre-employment application forms. Mr Kapur told the workers what to write on the blank employment agreement templates."

They each worked for five days over the period 20 September until 24 September
2017 inclusive for a total of 31.5 hours, allowing for a half-an-hour unpaid lunch break each day.

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"On 24 September 2017, Mr Kapur sent a text message to the workers to say that there
would be no work the following day [25 September] but that he would be in touch when
more work was available. The workers asked him to pay their wages."

He told them they would be paid the next Friday, then said it would show up the following Monday, and he would send a text with the value.

When they asked about the pay again on October 2, Kapur apologised and said he was out of town and the money would be paid the next evening.

"On 4 October 2017, Mr Kapur sent a message to the workers saying that they hadn't
been paid because the orchard owner had deducted $3000 from the job because it had not been done properly.

"This was the first time that the workers had been told there were any issues with the
work they had done. It is noteworthy that only occurred after they had been asking Mr Kapur to pay them their missing wages.

"On 12 October 2017, Mr Kapur called the workers and told them that he would pay
them the next day. He asked them to send their email addresses so he could send the workers' payslips. The workers did what he had asked them to do, but they never heard from Mr Kapur again."

Aw made a complaint to MBIE which was referred to the Labour Inspector on October 19, 2017.

The next month, the Labour Inspector emailed and couriered Kapur questions regarding the workers' complaint and requested copies of their timesheets, employment agreements, wage and time records and holiday and leave records.

He did not respond, so the inspector served a notice requiring disclosure.

In February 2018, he was issued with a warning for obstructing the inspector's investigation.

"Mr Kapur did not engage with the Labour Inspector or co-operate with her
investigation. He was obstructive in his dealings with the Labour Inspectorate."

The inspector told the authority the matter involved "exploitation of migrant workers".

The authority found he had failed to provide legally compliant employment agreements, failed to pay the minimum wage, failed to pay holiday pay, failed to produce wage and time records or holiday and leave records, failed to pay the outstanding wage and holiday arrears, and therefore it was necessary to penalise him.

It said it currently had "insufficient information to be able to fairly assess
penalties. The parties are therefore invited to file additional evidence and/or submissions".

Kapur was also ordered to pay to the Labour Inspector $535.82 per worker, to be paid to the worker, plus all of the interest that has been awarded on that amount, within 28 days.

The decision said the legal costs of the case would be dealt with after the penalty totals were determined.