1 Jul 2020

Bottle shop labour exploitation appeal dismissed by court

6:06 pm on 1 July 2020

The Employment Court has thrown out an appeal by an Auckland retail operator ordered to pay $100,000 for exploiting migrants.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Shalini was fined last June for underpaying and overworking seven migrant employees working at two liquor stores and a dairy.

The company appealed, saying its director had already agreed to pay the workers out, and it couldn't afford the fine.

But the court has dismissed the challenge saying labour exploitation can never be justified.

"Not only does exploitation violate workers' rights and their personal dignity, it also allows some businesses to gain a commercial advantage over employers who are committed to doing the right thing by their people and meeting their legal obligations," Labour Inspectorate regional manager Loua Ward.

"It also undermines New Zealand's reputation as a good place to work and to trade with."

The Labour Inspectorate investigated Shalini Limited's employment practices after receiving a complaint in 2017.

The investigation related to seven retail assistants working at Lifeline Dairy and Grafton Liquor Spot in Auckland, and a Bottle-O in Parakai.

The inspectorate found employees consistently worked long hours and did not receive their minimum wage and holiday pay entitlements, including not being paid correctly for working on public holidays.

The Employment Relations Authority ordered Shalini to pay $100,000 in penalties and $96,500 in minimum wage and holiday pay arrears to seven migrant workers.

"The inspectorate is concerned about non-compliance in the liquor retail industry and is working with sector leaders such as franchisors who need to audit and monitor their franchisees to uphold compliance with the law from the top down," Ward said.