Workers demand pay

BROOKE GARDINER
Last updated 10:33 13/02/2013

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A pay row has erupted over foreign workers being paid under the table at a vineyard linked to David Henderson.

Henderson, who is famous for his rows with the IRD, refused to confirm he was the owner of Anthem Vineyard, where three Chilean men claim to have worked under the table for six weeks this summer, but admitted he had "interests" in the vineyard.

The Companies Office website lists him as the sole shareholder of FTG Trustee Services Ltd, which owns Anthem Vineyards Ltd.

The Mirror became aware there was a pay dispute between the men and vineyard management after the men sought support from the Cromwell Food Bank when they hadn't been paid.

Nicolas Valenzuela, Alfonso Cordero and Raul Sotomayor, who all hold valid New Zealand work visas, claimed last week

they were still owed money for work they did at Anthem for six weeks from December 21.

"We said we wanted the work, but we wanted a contract and we wanted to pay tax. They said no tax, no IRD and no contract. When we said, ‘no we must have a contract', they said ‘the boss is away on holiday so won't be able to sort out a contract until they are back'," Raul Sotomayor said.

Unhappy with the arrangement but desperate for work, the trio agreed to start working for $15 an hour, he said.

Nicolas Valenzuela said they were employed to do wire lifting at the vineyard.

"After four weeks we received our first payment of $900 each," he said.

They were told they had not been paid the full amount because the manager was on holiday and there was not enough money, he claimed.

However, two weeks later and still out of pocket the men stopped working and claimed they were given different excuses for not being paid which included complaints about their work ethic and clocking hours they hadn't worked.

When asked to comment on Friday Mr Henderson said he knew nothing about the incident or the men.

Mr Henderson confirmed he still had "interests" in the vineyard but would not discuss those.

"I resolved not to talk to the media a long time ago and this conversation has far exceeded that," he said.

Claiming they were desperate to get some of the money they were owed, the Chilean men sought advice from Mike Griffiths, of Cromwell Chalets where they were staying.

"They told me they were owed $3000," Mr Griffiths said.

Hoping to sort the matter, Mr Griffiths phoned Anthem supervisor Cameron McDowell who refused to tell him who the owner of the vineyard was.

Mr Griffiths said Mr McDowell's father Steve then told him the men had been "nothing but trouble" and that his son "couldn't control them".

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"I think Cameron ended up paying them out of his own pocket, his mother turned up later with three cheques for $800," Mr Griffiths said.

When the Mirror contacted Cameron McDowell he declined to speak on the record but said the company accountant paid the men in full on Friday.

He declined to name the owner or the accountant.

Neighbouring Mt Rosa viticulturist Gary Crabbe said he referred the three men to Mr McDowell after hiring them through Seasonal Solutions earlier in December.

Mr Crabbe said he referred them on as a favour to both parties as he was aware Anthem was desperate for staff and the men wanted work.

However, the men were not good workers, he said.

"They were terrible, atrocious. Their standard of work was very poor."

Mr Crabbe said some of his other staff had also worked at Anthem and experienced difficulties getting paid.

He was also unsure of the ownership.

The men left Cromwell last week and plan to head to Nelson to find more work. They confirmed on Monday they had received full payment on Friday.

- The Mirror

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