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Published 28 November 2023 | 2 min read
Decoding the pattern of 60-hour workweeks on minimum wage.
In the heart of Rangiora, the vibrant pulse of Karfa Moroccan Cuisine has been abruptly muted. Not by choice, but by the aftermath of a recent Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ruling that has sent shockwaves through the local business community. The restaurant's owner, Vijay Singh, finds himself in hot water, ordered to repay a staggering $30,000 to a former employee, Sanjiv Kumar Meena.
The story unfurls with a bitter twist of injustice as Singh, the sole shareholder and director of Laxmi Narayan Restaurant Ltd, is found guilty of underpaying Meena and unlawfully deducting money from his hard-earned wages. The two-year ordeal saw Meena, the restaurant manager, not only enduring underpayment but also being denied compensation for holidays and leave. To add insult to injury, Singh manipulated the hours worked in exchange for Meena's help in securing a work visa.
The ERA, after meticulous consideration of the evidence brought forth by the Labour Inspectorate, issued a comprehensive order.. A breakdown of the repayments ordered includes:
Wage Arrears: $19,320
The ERA deemed it necessary for Singh to reimburse Meena for the substantial gap between the promised contractual rate during the visa approval process and the meagre amount he actually received.
Unlawful Deductions: $3,865
Singh faced consequences for unlawfully dipping into Meena's wages over the two-year period. The ERA underscored the severity of such actions, emphasising the importance of honouring the sanctity of an employee's hard-earned income.
Holiday and Leave Arrears: $3,674
The ERA also recognised Meena's entitlement to compensation for holidays and leave that had been systematically overlooked during his tenure at Karfa Moroccan Cuisine.
To account for the financial strain placed on Meena during this period, interest was factored into the repayment plan, acknowledging the additional burden he carried.
Penalties to the Crown: $11,250
In a move that echoed the ERA's commitment to deterring such misconduct, Singh was slapped with an additional penalty, a sum of $11,250 payable to the Crown.
A larger concern
This tale of a Rangiora restaurateur's misstep is unfortunately not an isolated incident. The wider context reveals a troubling pattern of employer misconduct. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has fielded 1483 complaints against employers this year alone, with 188 ongoing investigations. Singh's case, while unfortunate, serves as a beacon of awareness for Kiwi business owners who may be tempted to exploit the visa process or renege on contractual agreements.
To avoid the pitfalls that befell Karfa Moroccan Cuisine, it's crucial to honour the terms established during the visa approval process and ensure that employees are paid their rightful dues. The responsibility falls on the shoulders of business owners to prioritise integrity, fostering an environment where employees are treated with respect and dignity.