New Zealand – Investigation finds more than half of kiwifruit contractors underpaid their workers

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By (Danny Romero)

An investigation found that more than half of employers in the kiwifruit industry in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, were found to have breached employment obligations leading to workers being underpaid, according the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment Labour Inspectorate.

A Labour Inspectorate operation audited 62 labour companies and interviewed nearly 700 workers over three months last year. The Inspectorate found 53% of employers failed to meet minimum employment standards, such as providing employment agreements and paying the minimum wage, and almost all of these employers were using migrant labour. Some employers were able to immediately address the breaches but 20 improvement notices and six enforceable undertakings were issued. Two employers were issued with an infringement notice in addition to their improvement notice for NZD 1000 (USD 734) each.

“There are no acceptable excuses for employers failing to meet all minimum standards or provide people with all their minimum entitlements,” Labour Inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan, said. “Almost all of the employers found in breach were using migrant labour, which is concerning because these are vulnerable people who may not fully know their rights and entitlements. Significant debts were uncovered with one employer owing more than NZD 25,000 (USD 18,373) to their employees, and it’s likely the lack of records is disguising more widespread non-compliance with minimum wage.”

“While finding these breaches has been really disappointing it comes as little surprise, as it’s an issue we’ve raised with the industry for a number of years,” Finnegan said. “Without demanding greater assurance from labour hire companies about their employment practices, growers won’t know if people working on their vines are receiving their entitlements,” he said.

NZ Kiwifruit Growers chief executive Nikki Johnson stated that in the past 12 months the industry had been driving programmes to improve employment in the kiwifruit sector.

Source:: New Zealand – Investigation finds more than half of kiwifruit contractors underpaid their workers


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