Vineyard contractor to pay penalty

Last updated 05:00 01/03/2014

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A Marlborough vineyard contractor has been fined $3000 for not having employment agreements with staff and ignoring labour inspectors' requests.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said TP Manu Ltd was fined by the Employment Relations Authority for failing to comply with an improvement notice issued by the ministry's labour inspectorate.

The authority found TP Manu Limited deliberately ignored requests by labour inspectors to provide timesheets, wage records and copies of employment agreements.

This was one of seven Marlborough contractors issued with improvement notices last year. A ministry spokeswoman said labour inspectors made several unannounced field visits last year and issued improvement notices where appropriate. 

''The majority of cases where improvement notices were issued are now resolved, with no further action required. One case remains open as the labour inspector has requested further information.'' 

Labour Inspectorate general manager George Mason said a labour inspector visited TP Manu's Blenheim work site last year and found several employees did not have employment agreements in place, which are legally required under the Employment Relations Act.

As a result, the labour inspector issued an improvement notice requiring TP Manu to provide records to the Labour Inspectorate, which would assist in determining if TP Manu had breached any employment laws, Mr Mason said.

''The request was repeatedly ignored by TP Manu, with one of the company's directors Fakatouola Pulukamu falsely claiming he was out of the country when the improvement notice was issued and that he hadn't received it.

'In its determination, the Employment Relations Authority said this behaviour was unacceptable and that Mr Pulukamu gave misleading evidence to the Authority, suggesting that TP Manu did not take the improvement notice seriously, Mr Mason said.

He said the Labour Inspectorate welcomed the Authority's determination and its decision to hand down a penalty.''Marlborough's pruning season gets under way in May and the Labour Inspectorate will be continuing its regular visits to vineyards to ensure compliance with employment laws.

''This determination should be considered a timely reminder for contractors to make sure they're aware of their obligations as employers and requirements by law.

''Anyone with concerns about their employment rights is encouraged call the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's contact centre on 0800 20 90 20.

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- The Marlborough Express

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