Wednesday, 09 December 2020 14:51

Former kiwifruit labour contractor fined $276,000

Written by  Staff Reporters
A former kiwifruit labour contractor and its owner have been fined $276,000 for exploiting migrant workers. A former kiwifruit labour contractor and its owner have been fined $276,000 for exploiting migrant workers.

A former Bay of Plenty kiwifruit labour contractor and its former owner have been ordered to pay $276,000 by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) for exploiting six migrant workers.

Raj Kiwi has been fined $160,000 and its former shareholder and director Rajasekar Chellappa was individually fined a further $70,000 for 49 employment minimum standards breaches.

A subsidiary belonging to Chellappa, Raj Infotech, was ordered to pay nearly $30,000 by the ERA in 2019 in wage arrears and penalties, after non-compliantly ending a migrant IT consultant’s job before offering them a job picking kiwifruit.

The violations included breaches of minimum wage, holiday pay, not keeping records, and absent employment agreements.

Raj Kiwi was also ordered to pay wage arrears to the workers, totally more than $26,000.

“This offending was blatant, and the Authority’s high penalties show it recognises the employer was at the worst end of migrant exploitation,” said Labour Inspectorate horticulture sector lead Kevin Finnegan.

“But it could have been worse,” he said.

He says that the Inspectorate encourages anyone who believes their employment rights are in breach to come forward.

He says that Zespri was also quick to respond after receiving complaints.

After discussions with the Inspectorate, Zespri immediately suspended Raj Kiwi’s contractor certification.

“It is actions like this from Zespri that automatically shows the sector and its supply chains that employers like Raj Kiwi are a red flag to anyone doing business with them, or buying their services,” Finnegan said.

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