Retailer to challenge ERA decision on holiday pay

Venkat Raman

The owner of a Retail brand including a Chain of successful Restaurants has accused the Labour Inspectorate and Immigration New Zealand (INZ) of witch hunting, wrongful decisions and deliberately tarnishing his image.

Ravi Singh, who owns the Raviz Restaurant brand, which has a Restaurant on Hobson Street in Auckland City and in Mairangi Bay, North Shore, was recently fined by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) for failure to comply with the instructions of the Labour Inspectorate on maintaining proper records of public holiday entitlements of staff.

According to a Media Release by the Ministry of Business, Immigration and Employment (MBIE), the Labour Inspectorate found that one of his businesses in Botany failed to provide accurate pay and leave records. It also failed to pay time-and-a-half to a staff member who worked on 11 public holidays.

Restaurant sold

The complaint related to ‘Raviz Restaurant’ in Botany Junction which was sold three years ago and which is currently running under another name under another ownership.

Mr Singh said that the Restaurant was owned three years ago by ‘Bombay Gymkhana Limited’ and not Raviz and that ERA had failed to recognise several facts.

“The disputed employee had said in his Witness Statement that he had received all his dues and that the Employer does not owe him any money. That Restaurant had employed 22 staff and the Labour Inspectorate picked one staff for shortfall of six days of Holiday Pay, which I still dispute,” he said.

ERA Hearings

Mr Singh said that the initial hearing at the ERA was in his favour.

“We were then asked to file the Auditor’s Report. I was overseas for a long time attending to the medical needs of a member of my family. It was then that the Labour Inspectorate tried to speed up the procedure at the ERA. I had requested for extension of time. This was rejected and I was asked to appear through a video conference,” he said.

Mr Singh said that he was wrongly fined by ERA and that he was in the process of challenging the decision in a Court of Law.

Challenging the decision

“I believe this is a case study of how a successful retail brand can be crushed by a vindictive department of the government. It started four years ago when INZ unduly and unjustly delayed processing of many visa applications that we had filed to recruit staff in a number of companies owned by us. We had filed a case against INZ and after a length of time, an out-of-court settlement was reached. Apart from the Company incurring a huge financial loss, the Crown also lost substantial taxpayer money through fees to the Crown Lawyer, Court time and other matters. I have gone through untold suffering for the past four years due to the deliberate acts of victimisation by the Labour Inspectorate and INZ,” he said.

Mr Singh said he has been in business for more than 20 years in New Zealand and that what is going on in his case is unusual and deplorable.

“I love New Zealand and New Zealanders and being in hospitality business, I know my responsibilities, which include keeping my staff happy. I have always adhered to all rules and regulations and I am fully aware of the Employment Law and my duties as an employer. Anyone who comes to my businesses will see our staff happy, offering good service.

“I have always looked after my staff with care and concern and question of underpaying them never arises. I am upset not only over the ERA decision but also because this has damaged my reputation. I will vigorously pursue my case in the Court,” he said.*

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