A Waikato berry grower has been fined more than $76,000 after a Labour Inspectorate investigation found the company committed labour law breaches against hundreds of its employees.
Olde Berry Farm Ltd and its director were ordered by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) today to pay $76,532. The business was ordered to pay $50,000 in penalties and $16,532 in unpaid minimum wage and holiday pay.
Its managing director Andrew Peter Molloy was made personally responsible for an additional $10,000 in penalties.
The farm first came to inspectorate's attention when it was investigating another farm, Matangi Berry Farm Ltd, which operated on the same orchard in 2017.
• Employer held to task again after exploiting workers via sham business
• Budget 2018: Labour Inspectorate gets $8.8m boost for more inspectors
• Labour inspector fights for Pizza Hut drivers in contracting case
• Police stopped from hiring overseas workers after breach of labour law
Its investigation found Old Berry Farm employment had committed law breaches in respect to 304 employees.
Most related to poor record-keeping and failure to provide workers with employment agreements.
It found also that the business failed to pay 150 employees their correct holiday pay entitlements and five were found to be paid below the minimum wage.
Labour Inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan said this was the "second poor result" seen from the horticulture sector in the past month.
"This...is particularly disappointing given the work the Inspectorate has undertaken to work with the sector to assist them with getting their employment practices on an assured and legal footing," Finnegan said.
He said many were young migrant workers who were less likely to be aware of their rights and were particularly vulnerable to being taken advantage of.
"It is imperative that employers treat their workers properly.
"The ERA determination sends a clear message that businesses and individuals like Mr Molloy, cannot get away with exploiting workers.".
He said Olde Berry Farm sells produce to supermarkets, and this would also compromise the supply chain of those supermarkets.
"This compromises supermarket customers who do not expect unlawful and exploitative practices to be associated with the fresh produce they purchase."
The case against Matangi Berry Farm is currently before the Employment Court.
People concerned about their employment situation or someone else's employment situation are urged to contact Employment New Zealand.