28 May 2024

Nelson restaurant 'ripped off' employees during quiet hours, must pay $30,000

12:44 pm on 28 May 2024
Zara's Turkish Kebabs and Cafe in Nelson.

Zara's Turkish Kebabs and Cafe in Nelson. Photo: Supplied / Google Maps

A Nelson eatery has been ordered to pay $30,000 to three employees who were not paid for work done during the restaurant's quiet time.

Between 2014 and 2018, three employees at Zara's Turkish Kebabs and Cafe were not paid for hours worked in between the lunch and dinner services, the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) said.

The company, Mirac Limited, owned and operated by Omer Akbaba, was ordered by the ERA to pay $30,886.44 in wage arrears, holiday pay and interest to the three employees.

Head of the Labour Inspectorate Simon Humphries said Akbaba ripped off his workers.

Akbaba is one of two company directors and shareholders of the business.

The authority said Akbaba filled in the employees' timesheets for them, and left off the hours between the lunch and dinner services, despite the workers using the time to prepare meats, salads and sauces.

Additionally, Mirac Limited must pay $18,000 in penalties for breaching the Holidays Act, for failing to pay the minimum wage and for failing to maintain proper wages and time records.

In his role as owner/operator, Akbaba must also pay a penalty of $9000.

ERA member Michael Loftus said the employees were migrant workers and inherently vulnerable as they were unfamiliar with New Zealand laws and regulations.

Humphries said the penalties and arrears ordered against Mirac Limited and Akbaba should serve as a warning to anyone who might consider short-changing or exploiting their workers.

"Thanks to the commendable actions of the three employees, the Labour Inspectorate was able to investigate and hold to account employers who set out to deceive and benefit from the exploitation of their workers. Omer Akbaba was ripping them off and gained from their free labour.

"This company and its owners showed a blatant disregard for their obligations as employers and, as a result, must now pay the consequences. Hopefully this brings some justice to those employees who had been underpaid over several years."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs