NZ business ordered to pay underpaid Fijian workers

New Zealand authorities have ordered a Canterbury asparagus grower to pay back close to $NZ50,000 to a group of workers, most from Fiji, he underpaid.

In a decision handed down this week, the country’s Employment Relations Authority ordered Christopher Gray of Motukarara Asparagus to repay the 13 pickers a total of $49,722.49.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Gray “paid Fijian workers less than minimum wage, no holiday pay and made unlawful deductions for airfares and accommodation.”

A labour inspector, auditing employers involved in the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE), made the discovery when he visited the business in September 2018 after Gray submitted another application to recruit more workers from Fiji.

Some workers were reportedly paid below the minimum wage because Gray did not have a system in place and paid them based on the weight of asparagus they picked.  The workers did not consent to deductions.

In place since April 2007, the RSE allows NZ horticulture and viticulture industries to recruit workers from overseas, including the Pacific, for seasonal work.

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