A migrant worker in New Zealand's Ōtākou/Otago region has been awarded $34,000 in unpaid wages by Immigration NZ after being consistently underpaid for nine months. The woman described feeling trapped due to exploitative work conditions and the requirement to live on-site. The employer, 4S Hospitality, was fined $24,000, and the manager involved received a $12,000 fine, demonstrating that such actions will not be tolerated.
A migrant worker employed at The Criterion Club Hotel in Manuherikia/Alexandra, Ōtākou/Otago, has been awarded $34,000 in unpaid wages after being chronically underpaid for nine months. The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, reported feeling like a prisoner during her time at the hotel due to the exploitative work conditions.
The woman worked an average of 50 to 60 hours per week for six days, yet she was only compensated for 30 hours. This drastic underpayment had a significant impact on her emotional well-being, causing her to regret coming to New Zealand. The woman expressed feeling trapped due to living on-site as part of the work agreement, making the prospect of resigning and becoming homeless unbearable. The exploitative work situation also negatively affected her family and social life.
Following her resignation, the woman requested her final holiday pay, which her employers refused to provide. Faced with seemingly endless excuses, she sought help from the Labour Inspectorate. The Inspectorate conducted an investigation and utilised external data, including EFTPOS, pokie machine, and TAB terminal records, to uncover the under-recording of her hours by 4S Hospitality, the parent company of The Criterion Club Hotel. This serious breach warranted involvement from the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).
The Labour Inspectorate's head of compliance and enforcement, Simon Humphries, expressed concern over employers taking advantage of workers and commended the woman for reporting the abuse. 4S Hospitality was fined $24,000, while Kuljinder Singh Sidhu, a manager involved in the business, received a fine of $12,000. Although Sidhu did not own the business, the ERA determined that he was aware of the improper recording of hours and holiday pay. In addition to the fines imposed on the employers, the woman was awarded $34,270 in unpaid wages, along with interest.
Humphries hopes that the penalties imposed on exploitative employers will deter others from engaging in similar practices. He encourages individuals who believe they are being treated unfairly at work to seek assistance from the Labour Inspectorate, describing it as a wonderful resource that changed the woman's life and fostered her appreciation for New Zealand. Taking action against exploitative employers ensures that workers are protected and fairly compensated for their contributions.