The Council of Trade Unions is questioning why those living at Gloriavale aren’t being given the same employment rights as others.
The Labour Inspectorate has found no employment relationship exists within the West Coast commune, after it reviewed documents and carried out interviews with current and former members.
National manager Stu Lumsden said it found that the parties did not intend to enter into an employment relationship, and that “work is a means of providing for the whole community, rather than for individual gain”.
He said that members sign an agreement after talking to an independent lawyer.
Unions president Richard Wagstaff said the decision was disappointing.
He said people working there “don’t have the protection that other employees do have and therefore they can been effectively exploited without any come back”.
Gloriavale Leavers Trust chair Alan Aitken supports those who have left and said many members don’t know anything else.
“We’ve all had jobs where we’ve felt like telling the boss to stick it … at Gloriavale what people effectively tell us is if you tell the boss to stick the job, it’s not just the job you might lose but also your home, your friends, your family, your salvation.
“If you or I were in that situation how free would we be?,” questioned Aitken.
Lumsden said the choice is not there based on employment law and “as the regulator of employment law I have no ability to deal with that issue".
Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood said the ministry and Worksafe are monitoring the situation.
Those who’ve left Gloriavale are considering taking the decision to the Employment Court in the hope it is overturned.