Unfairly treated workers still waiting for payouts, ERA powerless

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says once a determination is made, the ERA has no further involvement.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says once a determination is made, the ERA has no further involvement.

Nelson man Darren Oliver is frustrated that despite being awarded nearly $50,000 in unpaid wages and compensation after an employment dispute, his former employer has no obligation to pay up.

The Employment Relations Authority ruled in favour of Oliver in his case against Nelson furniture moving company Star Moving Ltd in May. Oliver had been the Nelson branch manager for eight years and the ERA found he was unjustifiably constructively dismissed and was disadvantaged in his employment.

There was also a dispute over whether Oliver was employed by Star Moving or Scott Haulage 2010 Ltd at the time of his resignation, with both companies owned by Stuart Biggs.

The ERA determination found that Oliver worked for Scott Haulage when he resigned in 2014.

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The determination ordered Scott Haulage to pay nearly $50,000 in lost wages and compensation.

More than three months after he was awarded the compensation, Oliver is yet to see any money.

"A lot of that money is wages and holiday pay which you think he would have the decency to at least pay that out," he said.

It is the same outcome that Nelson woman Moira Bauer faced after she was awarded nearly $20,000 by the ERA after an employment dispute with central Nelson's Tozzetti Bakery last October.

She is yet to receive any money from her former employer.

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The ERA found Bauer had been unjustifiably disadvantaged by the changes in her duties and being sent home early from her shifts. It ordered payment of more than $8000 in lost wages, $10,000 in compensation and nearly $700 in unpaid holiday pay.

Oliver is concerned that there is nothing to ensure employers pay up after the ERA has passed judgement. 

After making the order, the ERA has little or no ability to force former employers to pay up, which means they are often forced to take further court action to recover the money they are owed.

Oliver said he is concerned that if any of his former colleagues had an employment dispute they would end up in the same position he has.

He said the case had taken a financial burden on his family. 

"When is it going to end and is it going to end and how much more money is it going to cost us to get our money back?" he said.

"We have got lawyers bills there for $10,000 and we have been awarded the costs and we can't do anything with it."

Oliver said he had been told to apply for legal aid and the next step was to take the case to the Employment Court.

Stuart Biggs, described in the authority decision as the director and shareholder of Star Moving and Scott Haulage, declined to comment on the case.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Business and Innovation said once a determination had been made, the ERA had no further involvement.

In 2015, the ERA held 612 investigation meetings nationally, however, some were for the same case which require multiple meetings.

MBIE could not say how many of those decisions has been carried out.

The ERA found Oliver had been unjustifiably disadvantaged as he was denied overnight allowance payments with deductions made from his pay and his purchasing power was revoked. It ordered payment of more than $15,000 in lost wages, $20,000 in compensation and more than $1800 in holiday pay.

- An earlier version of this article stated that the Authority had ordered the owner of Star Moving Ltd, Stuart Biggs, to pay nearly $50,000 to Oliver in last wages and compensation.  In fact, the order was made against Scott Haulage 2000 Ltd.  Biggs is also the sole director and owner of that company.  The error is regretted.

- Comments on this story are closed

 - Stuff

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