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New Zealand orchardist fined for breaches against Bay of Plenty migrant workers

An agri employer, based in Hawke's Bay, who was fined for breaching labour laws in 2015 has again been penalised for breaches against "young and vulnerable" migrant employees in the Bay of Plenty.

Gautam Rajan Kapur has been ordered by the Employment Relations Authority to pay more than $25,000 for employment breaches committed against four migrant workers, the ERA said in a statement.

It comes after the Labour Inspectorate received a complaint from four Singaporean women hired by Kapur for pruning work while visiting the Bay of Plenty on a working holiday. The women worked for five days on a kiwifruit orchard in Pukehina, operated by Joba Orchard Limited, but were not paid for their work.

Tvnz.co.nz quoted Labour Inspectorate regional manager Natalie Gardiner as saying: "The employees were young and vulnerable. It was their first time in New Zealand, and Mr Kapur’s actions not only undermined the worker’s rights, but also New Zealand’s international reputation."

Kapur had also set up a sham business, Sunrise Hort Limited, under another person’s name in order to avoid personal responsibility for the exploitation, authorities said.  “When approached by the Labour Inspector, Mr Kapur claimed that he was merely an employee at Sunrise Hort, and not responsible for the breaches. Evidence provided by the employees, who had since returned to Singapore, proved this was not the case.”

In 2015, three Hawke’s Bay businesses associated to Kapur were ordered to pay $22,500 for failure to provide employment records to the Labour Inspector. Kapur was found to be personally responsible for the breaches, and was ordered to pay $18,000 in penalties - $12,000 of which will go to the workers - and $5,451 in costs incurred by the Labour Inspectorate during the investigation.

In the past, Freshplaza also wrote about the same orchardist and the exploitation lawsuits filed against him.


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