Masala restaurants fined for exploiting migrant workers
An Indian restaurant chain trading on cheap curry deals has been fined $10,000 by the Employment Relations Authority for exploiting vulnerable illegal migrant workers.
The Masala Mission Bay and Masala Bucklands Beach restaurants, owned by Goldlink Enterprises and CHK Hospitality respectively, failed to pay former employee Gagandeep Singh minimum wages and holiday pay owed to him, an ERA determination said.
Both companies are in liquidation.
As an illegal migrant worker, Singh was vulnerable to exploitation by employers, the authority said.
"Migrant workers working illegally in New Zealand may not feel able to complain about their working conditions as they could be deported back to their home country," it said.
"Workers like Mr Singh are vulnerable to exploitation due to the conflict that would necessarily arise for them if they complain that they are not receiving minimum standards."
The restaurants' failure to pay the minimum wage was "inexcusable".
The authority fined the restaurants $10,000, with $5000 going to Singh and $5000 to the Crown.
It hoped the penalty would serve as a "deterrent message".
The authority said CHK Hospitality had to pay Singh $2160.03 plus interest for unpaid wages and holiday pay for the two weeks he worked at Masala Bucklands Beach in 2012.
The labour inspector said the two restaurants Singh worked for failed to pay minimum wages, final holiday pay and public holiday pay, totalling $32,264.35.
However, the claims against the company that owns the Masala Mission Bay restaurant were not pursued because of Goldlink Enterprises' liquidation status.
This is not the first time the chain has been in trouble over the treatment of its staff.
In 2013, it came to light that Masala was being investigated by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
An unknown number of workers alleged they were not paid leave entitlements, lived in overcrowded accommodation for which their wages were deducted and received as little as $265 a week in the hand for up to 70 hours' work, or $4 an hour.