NZ: Kiwifruit company fined $230,000 for mininum wage failure

A kiwifruit picking company and its owner have been fined $230,000 for failing to pay minimum wage to workers and not keeping accurate employment records.

The Labour Inspectorate took Rajasekar Chellappa, former owner of Raj Kiwi, to the Employment Relations Authority, for 39 breaches of employment law against 10 employees.

The company, Raj Kiwi, was found to have committed a further 42 breaches. In addition to the $230,000 fine, Raj Kiwi was ordered to pay $23,628 in wage arrears to six employees.

Employees claimed they had not been paid the minimum wage, had not received wages for hours worked, did not receive holiday pay and in the case of one employee, had money deducted from their wages without permission.

During the investigation, the labour inspectorate continued to receive further complaints from affected employees. Records were requested from the company four times between June 6 and August 20, but these requests were ignored or put off. Chellappa then told the inspectorate that he had sold the business and did not have access to the requested paperwork.

After an investigation that included interviews with employees and orchard owners, as well as an analysis of bank accounts and other paperwork, the inspector concluded that Raj Kiwi had failed to keep and maintain compliant records for its employees.

She told the authority that this had significantly hindered her ability to properly investigate and establish whether the employees had received their minimum statutory entitlements and, if not, what the level of arrears were owing to each employee.

The inspector said that her investigation was unnecessarily prolonged by Chellappa’s failure to provide the requested employee and wage records.


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