Engineer battling former employer

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 13:00 16/01/2014

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A Nelson man who has been fighting his former employers for wages owed to him says he feels they have stolen from his family.

Engineer Tony Jackson won a ruling against TSL Nelson Ltd through the Employment Relations Authority last year.

However, the company is now in liquidation, casting doubt over whether he will receive the money he is owed.

The ruling in August last year found that TSL Nelson owed Mr Jackson nearly $20,000 for time off in lieu and holiday pay. He has not been paid this money, despite a court-ordered bailiff with a warrant visiting the directors' homes and the company office.

Mr Jackson began working for TSL Nelson Ltd (then named Titan Slicer Ltd), which designs and manufactures food slicers, in August 2010. He resigned in April 2012.

He said it was "disappointing that the directors of Titan feel it necessary to use their workers to bankroll the company. I feel like they have stolen from me and my family".

"I feel completely let down by all three company directors. As an employee of the company, I put in hundreds of hours' overtime to grow Titan Slicer, only for them to refuse to pay me for my hard work."

On December 16 last year, TSL Nelson Ltd's three directors, Sean Marr, Jonathan Eyles and Andreas Gull, put the company into liquidation.

Mr Marr told the Nelson Mail that TSL Nelson Ltd went into liquidation after it found it could not afford to pay debts incurred when it tried to expand into the United States and Canada.

He said he terminated a contact with a US company Titan had partnered with to get business in North America. The deal soured, and the US company then threatened legal action. Mr Marr said this forced the directors to liquidate the company, as they "had no funds to fight".

In July 2012, Titan Slicer Ltd sold its business and assets to the Mercer Group.

Titan (NZ) Ltd was incorporated under the Companies Act, then changed its name to Titan Slicer Ltd, with Mercer as the majority shareholder and Mr Marr as a director and minor shareholder.

Mr Marr said Mercer did not buy any of the debts or outstanding loans, and did not buy the company, but kept the Titan Slicer brand and took over the name Titan Slicer Ltd.

Mr Marr said the payment from Mercer was used to repay bank debt and buy out minority shareholders.

He said the company had told Mr Jackson and his representative on multiple occasions that it had ceased trading and was not in a position to pay Mr Jackson, whatever the ERA decision, but had offered to pay $5000.

He felt the company had "absolutely" treated Mr Jackson fairly while he was employed by it.

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"This is business - you can't always control what happens to your company. You act ethically and honestly. You do your best to protect the shareholders and the employees."

Employment advocate Kevin Murray, who advised Mr Jackson on the case, said the Titan directors had a moral duty to ensure workers were paid their legal entitlements.

"This case is about an employee working a huge number of hours, and he got paid 40 hours every week, and the rest of the overtime was recorded as time in lieu."

He said the directors were leading Nelson businesspeople, and he believed they had not acted ethically on the issue.

"This shows a nastier side - that these pillars of the Nelson society are prepared to get employees within the community to work and not be prepared to pay them.

"Their actions are hurting the Nelson community itself. If the wages were paid to Tony, that means he would have probably spent that money in the Nelson community, supporting other local businesses."

The debt has been recorded with liquidators Jollands Callander AC, who only become aware of it last week, after Mr Jackson inquired about it.

Liquidator Peter Jollands told the Nelson Mail his office was closed over summer, and staff had not had the time to look at the files during the holiday season.

He said he could not comment on the ERA outcome and owed finances until he had properly investigated the case and assessed which debts were the priority for the company.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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