Marlborough contractors Vinepower and Provine stung for breaching employment standards

Vineyard contracting companies Vinepower and Provine, both owned by the same directors, have been issued improvement ...

Vineyard contracting companies Vinepower and Provine, both owned by the same directors, have been issued improvement notices by the Labour Inspectorate (file photo).

Two Marlborough vineyard contracting companies owned by the same directors have been stung for employment breaches and ordered to pay arrears to their workers.

The Labour Inspectorate issued improvement notices to Vinepower and Provine after stepping in to mediate between Provine workers and the company during a pay dispute.

Jason Kennard, a director of both companies, said they were already aware of the issues and were taking steps to fix them when the notices were issued.

Ni-Vanuatu workers took their pay concerns to the Inspectorate and Immigration New Zealand last month, alleging the rates set out in their contract were not being followed.

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The issue arose because the workers signed their contracts with the Recognised Seasonal Employer-accredited company, Provine, that was bought by the Vinepower directors last year.

Labour Inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan said a formal investigation was launched following mediation with the employers, the workers and Immigration New Zealand.

The investigation found the companies were not paying for breaks correctly, resulting in two improvement notices being issued and $31,000 in arrears being paid to 171 workers, or about $180 each.

"We had recently become aware of these issues and had taken advice and were in the process of amending our procedures when the notices were issued," Kennard said.

"We have now addressed the issues in the notices and resolved all of the matters required of us.

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"Our practices and procedures have been reviewed, and will continue to be reviewed to ensure we are operating in accordance with all of our legal obligations to our employees."

​Immigration New Zealand Pacific labour and skills manager George Rarere said in a statement that "outstanding issues were resolved in a combined meeting with the company and the workers"

"Immigration New Zealand has informed the appropriate authorities in Vanuatu of this case, as is standard practice for any issues relating to RSE workers or the RSE scheme," he said.

However, Labour Kaikoura candidate Janette Walker said she and a union representative were assisting the workers to pursue further mediation.

"I think the improvement notices are a weak option form the department of labour. They've slapped this company with a wet bus ticket."

 - The Marlborough Express


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