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An employer has repaid a $16,900 premium that he and one of his employees received to help an employee with their visa, with a further $6000 penalty ordered by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).
“Charging premiums takes advantage of vulnerable employees who may feel like they don’t have any other option but to source large sums of money to keep a job. This is a clear breach of New Zealand employment law and will not be tolerated,” Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager David Milne said.
The employer, who operated a ‘Coffee Club’ café business in Parnell Auckland, and the café’s head chef and supervisor Shijie Lu, were paid the premiums by a Chinese national employed at the café.
The employee came to an agreement with Mr Lu that in return for payment, the company would support their application for permanent residence in New Zealand. They were then offered an employment agreement and began working at the café.
Following these discussions, family members of the employee made two payments totalling $16,900 into Mr Lu’s personal bank account, some of which was used to pay rent for the café business.
Prior to making an application for residence, the employee resigned and requested a refund of the payments.
Ms Yingting Hou, the company’s director, said she was not aware of the agreement between the employee and Mr Lu, only becoming aware of the premium at some point after it had been paid.
After an investigation by a Labour Inspector, Ms Hou and Mr Lu expressed remorse for their mistake and the $16,900 was paid back.
The Labour Inspector then sought a penalty against the employer, Vesta International Limited, in the ERA.
Following the employer’s acknowledgement that it had breached the Wages Protection Act 1983, it was ordered to pay a $6000 penalty to the Crown.
Mr Lu’s application to extend his work visa was declined by Immigration New Zealand for attempting to make financial gain through deceit by trying to obtain a premium in breach of the Wages Protection Act 1983.
Coffee Club sold
The ‘Coffee Club’ in Parnell has since been sold to new operators.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment encourages anyone in this situation, or who knows of anyone in this situation, to call its contact centre on 0800- 209020 where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment.
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
In an article written in the Indian Newslink Anniversary Special in (November 15) 2013, Immigration Minister Michael Wood house had written about the Immigration Amendment Bill which he had just introduced to Parliament, saying that it would crack down on employers who exploit migrant workers working here lawfully on temporary visas.
“Under the Immigration Amendment Bill, such employers will face a jail sentence of up to seven years, a fine not exceeding $100,000, or both.
“Exploitative employers who hold residence visas will also be liable for deportation if the offence was committed within 10 years of gaining residence.
“This provision is necessary because many of the serious cases appear to be where new migrants are employed by other migrants, probably due to the networks and opportunities and their knowledge of New Zealand systems and processes.
“I know this is an issue of deep concern to members of the Indian community and rightly so. Exploitation of migrants is an abhorrent practice and I am determined to stamp it out.
“The fundamental and overriding principle is that migrant workers have the same employment rights as all other workers in New Zealand. The penalties in the Bill reflect the seriousness of such offences and I am confident that they will act as a deterrent,” he had said.