Employment breaches raise questions on liquor licensing

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In the latest in a long line of enforcement actions taken by the Labour Inspectorate, the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered Shalini Limited, a business that operated liquor stores and a dairy in Auckland, to pay $100,000 in penalties.

Shalini will separately repay $96,542.34 in minimum wage and holiday pay arrears to seven migrant workers.

The Labour Inspectorate conducted an investigation into Shalini’s employment practices after receiving a complaint in 2017.

The investigation related to seven retail assistants working in Lifeline Dairy, Grafton Liquor Spot and Bottle-O in Parakai. The evidence before the ERA showed that the employees consistently worked long hours and did not receive their minimum wage and holiday pay entitlements, including not being paid correctly for work on public holidays.

Investigation over nine years

Since 2012, more than 60 investigations into liquor retail businesses have been completed by the Inspectorate, including those trading under large franchise brands.

The Inspectorate is currently investigating 12 liquor stores trading under the Bottle-O franchise.

“We are deeply concerned about the trend of local liquor shops breaching employment standards, seemingly with no regard for the law,” National Manager Labour Inspectorate Stuart Lumsden said.

“Many are part of recognised brands which appear to have no effective measures in place to provide assurance that legal requirements are being met. Franchise owners and associations need to take steps to ensure businesses trading under their brand are applying lawful and ethical practices. If they don’t, one non-compliant business can create a bad name for the whole franchise. Owners should be very clear about what and who they are branded with.

Continuous breach

“In addition, retailing liquor is a closely licensed activity. How anybody can meet the necessary character requirements to hold a liquor licence while at the same time exploiting their workers is a question licensing authority might want to consider,” Mr Lumsden said.

The Labour Inspectorate took enforcement action against Shalini in 2016, but the complaint received in 2017 and the subsequent investigation showed the business continued to breach the minimum employment standards.

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.

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Photo by John Hernandez on Unsplash

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