National | Employment

Kumeu strawberry grower fined for short-changing seasonal workers

A Kumeu strawberry grower has been penalised $6000 after being caught a second time by a Labour Inspector failing to provide written employment agreements, or keep accurate holiday and leave records.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) found that strawberry grower A and J Zaknic & Sons Limited had a long history of failing properly to pay seasonal workers or keep accurate records, despite receiving warnings.

The company entered an enforceable undertaking in December 2013 promising to fix these issues, however the Labour Inspectorate at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) continued to receive complaints from employees.

Following subsequent visits to the farm between November 2015 and February 2016, the Labour Inspectorate identified five more workers who either did not have employment agreements or any leave records.

“As we head into strawberry picking season there will be an influx of seasonal workers, and the Inspectorate will not hesitate to crack down on any growers who fail to meet their obligations,” says Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager Kevin Finnegan.

“Workers must be provided with at least their minimum employment entitlements, including being paid minimum wage, having a written employment agreement in place, ensuring all holiday and leave is recorded accurately, and that those records are made available,” says Mr Finnegan.

“There is no excuse for failing to meet these basic employment requirements and the onus to make sure that minimum employment standards are provided for sits squarely with the employer.

“The Labour Inspectorate will be keeping a very close eye on employers who think they might be able to cut corners during the upcoming strawberry picking season,” says Mr Finnegan.

MBIE encourages anyone concerned about the employment situation of themselves or someone they know to call its contact centre on 0800 20 90 20, where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment.