18 Nov 2014

Worker paid $4.37 an hour - ERA

7:25 pm on 18 November 2014

A Christchurch milk distribution company has been fined $5000 for underpaying a migrant worker.

JP and JD Bowden Partnership was also ordered to pay more than $8200 in lost wages to the woman.

The Employment Relations Authority found the worker was paid a wage that amounted to $4.37 cents an hour in take home pay.

Labour inspectors accused the business of gaining a competitive advantage by unlawfully employing the worker on such a cheap rate.

Spokesperson Steve Watson said charging employment premiums was a clear breach of the Wages Protection Act.

He said the business gained a competitive advantage through unlawfully employing the woman on such a cheap rate. It also made the woman cover her own tax payments, claiming the company could not afford to pay them.

"Our approach is that there is no excuse for an employer to drop below minimum standards, and anybody who we find breaching those minimum standards will be treated very seriously and compliance action will be undertaken," Mr Watson said.

Last week, the Employment Relations Authority ordered a Vietnamese restaurant, Little Saigon, to pay an immigrant chef $175,000 for unpaid wages incurred over five years and other penalties. The ruling said Vu Nguyen and his brother, Bao, lived in the owner's garage, worked 66 hours a week without pay and ate in the restaurant.

An international report released today estimates there are about 600 people are living in some sort of 'modern slavery' in New Zealand.

The report defined slaves as including people subjected to forced labour, debt bondage, sexual exploitation, and forced marriage.

The anti-slavery foundation released its Global Slavery Index which said nearly 36 million people are enslaved worldwide, two-thirds of them in the Asia Pacific region. In terms of absolute numbers, India had the most with 14.2 million people, followed by China with 3.24 million.

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