Marlborough vineyard contractors taken to ERA after Labour Inspectorate investigation

Three vineyard contractors are being taken to the Employment Relations Authority after breaching minimum employment ...
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

Three vineyard contractors are being taken to the Employment Relations Authority after breaching minimum employment standards.

An investigation described as a wake-up-call for the Marlborough wine industry has resulted in a slew of enforcement actions against vineyard contractors.

The joint investigation by the Labour Inspectorate, Immigration New Zealand and Inland Revenue involved random visits to 10 independent contractors last July.

In August, when the results of the investigation were first announced, the inspectorate said only one contractor was compliant with minimum employment standards.

Labour Inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan said on Friday a further three contractors had been cleared after they provided additional documentation.

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However, the inspectorate was taking three contractors to the Employment Relations Authority for breaching minimum employment standards.

Two others had been served improvement notices, to step up their employment practices, and one of those was also issued an infringement notice for $3000.

The remaining contractor was still under investigation.

"It's simply not acceptable for employers to fail to keep written records, supply written employment contracts, calculate holiday pay correctly, or pay at least a minimum wage," Finnegan said.

"These are the absolute basics of being an employer in New Zealand, and it's been disappointing to see the viticulture industry miss the mark when it comes to meeting their obligations."

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Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said the results were disappointing, however he felt they were not an accurate reflection of the employment practices of the industry as a whole.

As part of the investigation, nine Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) contractors were also audited by the inspectorate, all of which were found to be compliant with employment standards.

Collectively, RSE contractors serviced more than 75 per cent of the vineyard area in Marlborough, making them a far larger employer than those without RSE accreditation.

Pickens said the investigation should serve as a warning, adding he was impressed by the work of the inspectorate given the long time span of the investigation.

"I think it shows that, despite the success of the wine industry, there's still the basics that have to be followed to the letter of the law, if not better - no excuses," he said.

Employers who breached employment law were subject to enforcement action which could include penalties of up to $50,000 for individuals and up to $100,000 for companies.

 - The Marlborough Express

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