Labour supply business owes thousands to staff

CECILE MEIER
Last updated 05:00 18/08/2014
Stephen Ryde and Joseph Bautista
DEAN KOZANIC

TOUGH TIMES: Electrician Stephen Ryde, left, and engineer Joseph Bautista have laid complaints about not being paid by labour placement company We Power Ltd.

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A Christchurch labour supply company has gone bust, owing employees thousands of dollars.

The company, initially co-owned by firms belonging to Bryan Staples and David Wilson, went into liquidation at the end of June.

According to the liquidator's report, the company owes tens of thousands to former staff and creditors but is unlikely to have enough assets to pay them.

Last September, The Press reported We Power Ltd had not paid more than 20 staff, mostly migrants, for several weeks' work. Some had to go into debt to pay for rent and groceries.

The company supplied labour to subcontractors who then paid the company for their personnel.

Staples and Wilson, who split in June 2013, are now blaming each other.

Staples said he felt sorry for the unpaid workers. He had hired about 10 of them in his own company when We Power fell apart, and helped some financially.

He had been a shareholder with "no control whatsoever" over the company, Staples said.

"I never had control over the bank accounts, I never had control over anything else."

Wilson, a former Earthquake Commission assessor, said he took over We Power in June 2013 after disagreements with Staples.

Staples had been the "driving force" behind the company before that, he said.

"Our shareholding was 50 per cent each . . . Bryan Staples would hire all the staff," Wilson said.

Wilson gave The Press a trail of emails between him, Staples, and the company's financial controller.

In February 2013, Staples instructed the financial controller that "Dave and I will approve the wages and all payments".

Three months later, Staples wrote to Wilson to say he was unhappy about a payment Wilson and the financial controller had made to a creditor.

"We need to all three agree on payments," he wrote.

In July 2013, he wrote to Wilson: "I have a lot of money, time and energy invested in that business and I am prepared to make it work."

In another email, he wrote: "We Power and Dave Wilson can only survive with my help . . . I own half the business."

Staples rejected Wilson's allegations.

Several workers laid complaints with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's labour inspectorate last year.

Stephen Ryde is one of them. He now works for Staples' company Earthquake Services, but is still owed more than $3000 for work he did at We Power.

"It's been a lot of stress. It really stuffed up our lives a lot," Ryde said.

The inspectorate said it took compliance action against the company in March this year.

"In this case, the company was liquidated before compliance could be reached," an MBIE spokesperson said.

"MBIE . . . is disappointed that in this case compliance could not be reached. The labour inspectorate does not have the power to overturn a liquidation."

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- The Press

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