Vineyard contractors fined over pay

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 07:13 14/04/2014

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Two Blenheim residents running a vineyard contracting business have been fined more than $2000 for not paying staff wages and holiday pay.

In a determination from the Employment Relations Authority, Papani Tupou and Ofa Fotu-Moala were fined $2361.96 for not paying their staff properly and for not complying with Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment requirements.

Neither Tupou nor Fotu-Moala appeared at the authority hearing.

The determination said the two operated as viticulture contractors trading under the name "Sovereignty of Knowledge Contracting", and had employed "an unknown number" of people to work in vineyards.

In June last year, they offered seven people staying in a Blenheim backpackers' hostel casual employment, which they did but were not paid for. The workers raised the issue with the Central Amalgamated Workers' Union, who passed it on to labour inspector Douglas Hixon.

Hixon served an improvement notice on the employers, requiring compliance with the law so the workers were paid at least minimum wage, their holiday pay, were given written employment contracts, and that records of their employment were kept by the contractor.

However, there was no compliance, the determination says.

The amounts owing were $98.80 gross each to six of the workers and $197.60 to the seventh, totalling $790.40. This was supposed to have been paid to Hixon to pass on to the workers by last Monday, but a ministry spokeswoman said on Friday there was no record it had been paid.

Another $1500 was set as a penalty for the breaches. The determination said this was an appropriate amount as the two were of limited means. Hixon asked that "a message be sent but the amount not be crippling", it said.

Tupou and Fotu-Moala could not be contacted for comment by the Marlborough Express.

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- The Marlborough Express

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