Some Spotlight staff claim they were not paid for 15 minute meetings for at least a decade

Employees at retail chain Spotlight say they were forced to attend a morning meeting every day for at least a decade without being paid for it.

Three former employees told Checkpoint today that attendance at Spotlight Christchurch's 8.45am meeting - a quarter of an hour before shifts began - was compulsory, but they were not allowed to include it in their timesheets, so were never paid for it.

Checkpoint has been contacted by dozens of employees from businesses and public organisations across New Zealand after it was revealed on Friday that retail chain Smiths City underpaid minimum wage workers for at least 15 years, by also expecting them to attend an unpaid 8.45am daily meeting.

The Employment Court has ordered Smiths City to work out how much it owed affected employees, and back-pay them by 8 August this year.

Former Spotlight employee Anne-Marie Brittenden worked for minimum wage at the Christchurch store for five years until late 2016.

"[At the meetings] we were given instructions on specials, behaviours, and expectations," she said.

"The number of staff who went were counted, and your names were written down."

A full-time worker on the minimum wage would miss out on about $800 a year if they attended a daily 15-minute meeting without pay.

That would take their total remuneration below the minimum wage threshold, making the practice illegal.

Spotlight general manager Chris Moore declined to be interviewed today, but in a statement through the company's PR firm, said the company had launched an internal investigation into the unpaid meetings.

"It is an absolute priority that our staff are paid fairly and for all hours worked, so if this is not the case then we need to address that immediately," Mr Moore said.

He denied the meetings were compulsory.

"It has always been optional for staff members to attend and, while it is encouraged, not attending will not lead to disciplinary action," he said.

"In response to the Smiths City recent ruling, we sent out a directive to all Spotlight NZ regional managers last week to cease all meetings outside of rostered hours (regardless of the fact they are voluntary)."

But a current employee confirmed the store held a morning meeting today, and staff would not be paid for it.

Mr Moore said any Spotlight employee who had been underpaid should contact the business.

"I encourage anyone else who feels they were not given an option to attend out-of-hours meetings, to come forward and speak to myself or their store manager.

"We will manage any future instances on a case-by-case basis," he said.

Retail giant Briscoes has also been accused of forcing staff to attend unpaid morning meetings but group general manager Rod Duke said all staff were paid for morning meetings.

"Is it possible there's been a slip-up? Probably," he said,

"But there's been no slip-up with the meetings, and I'm half-way through checking [whether staff were paid for] the end of evening cash-up," Mr Duke said.

Any Briscoes staff who were found to have been underpaid could expect to be reimbursed "immediately", he said.

Unions and the government both believe the practice is widespread.

They warned businesses to make sure they were paying all staff for all hours worked.

Workplace relations and safety minister Iain Lees-Galloway said he was concerned about the number of businesses being accused of underpaying minimum wage workers.

"This practice is not acceptable, and [I hope] they will quickly change their business practices to get themselves in line with the law," Mr Lees-Galloway said.

Spotlight store.
Spotlight store below a Harvey Norman's. Source: Wikimedia.commons

Warnings as more heavy snow on the way for South Island

Motorists are being warned about several roads that are forecast to be hit with heavy snow tonight and tomorrow.

A cold front is forecast to move north across the country tomorrow, while a low develops to the east of the South Island and then moves away to the east late Tuesday.

A drop in temperatures, showers and snow was forecast over the South Island for tomorrow, and possibly across the lower and central North Island on Tuesday.

MetService said the cold snap was expected to affect many higher roads and farms in those areas, and there was a moderate risk the snow would reach warning criteria about inland Canterbury and Kaikōura from Monday evening.

According to Metservice, rain is expected to turn to snow tomorrow at several passes, including Lewis Pass (State Highway 7), Arthur's Pass (State Highway 73), Porters Pass (State Highway 73), Haast Pass (State Highway 6), Lindis Pass (State Highway 8).

Meanwhile, this evening snow is also expected to hit Crown Range Road, and the Milford Road (State Highway 94) tunnel.

A heavy snow watch was also in place north and south of the Rangitata River, North and Central Otago, and Dunedin.

The road snow warnings follow on from last week's snow blitz in Queenstown, when hundreds of people were left without power after trees knocked down power poles and numerous roads were shut.

But residents and stranded tourists made the most of the big dump. Source: 1 NEWS


Man charged with murder over fatal Tauranga stabbing

A man has been charged with murder following the death of a 48-year-old man in Papamoa, Tauranga yesterday.

Police say the 22-year-old man charged was known to the victim and will be appearing in Tauranga District Court tomorrow.

The police investigation is ongoing but no-one else is being sought in relation to the death.

Police still want to hear from anyone who was walking in the Harding Street area between 7.30am and 9am yesterday.

Neighbour Todd Madden, who was walking to their car on the front lawn with his six-year-old at the time of the incident, told the NZ Herald they saw a "young guy covered in blood" in a driveway.

"[He] yelled at me to call the police.

"Police arrived and he laid down on the ground and I grabbed the two kids."

The children told him there was a victim inside "laying in a pool of blood".

"They had been crying loudly for about 30 minutes but I just thought they were being naughty - I wished I had've gone over earlier."

Anyone with information should call Tauranga Police on (07) 577 4300 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

Police car generic.
Police car generic. Source: 1 NEWS


New Zealand resident involved in people-smuggling to be deported

A Pakistani man involved in a people-smuggling operation in America, who gained residence in New Zealand, is the subject of a fraud investigation and is going to be deported.

But he has been told he can make a fresh application for residence.

In 2005, the stepfather-of-two was caught by a United States border patrol crossing from Canada, driving a van carrying eight Indian nationals, none with visas.

He changed his name and arrived in 2013 to enter into an arranged marriage.

When he applied for residence, the 39-year-old failed to disclose he had been convicted, deported and had used another name.

He had also previously unsuccessfully claimed refugee status in Canada.

When his visa deception was revealed, the former immigration minister, Michael Woodhouse decided he should be deported.

He appealed to the immigration and protection tribunal, which heard about his part in the people-smuggling.

He met an "agent" who offered to get him a legitimate visa for the United States for $US5000 ($NZ7479) and offered to reduce the cost if he agreed to drive a vehicle to the border for him, he told the tribunal.

He was arrested and jailed, meeting his New Zealand resident-wife online once he had been deported back to Pakistan.

His lawyer said he would face severe risks to his safety if he was again deported there, because he is a Shia Muslim.

He suffered threats to his life on his last visit there, she said, and deportation would result in the permanent separation from his family to whom he was a "pillar of support".

The tribunal heard he was the subject of an open fraud investigation by the police in relation to his directorship of a car company. The sum under investigation is said to be substantial.

It ruled he did have exceptional humanitarian circumstances because of his wife and stepson's health issues but it would not be unduly harsh to deport him.

"[His] concealment of his deportation from the United States (bolstered by his concealment of ever having lived there, or in Canada) went to the heart of his residence application," it said, in its written decision.

"The concealment undermined the integrity of New Zealand's immigration system in a serious way.

"He was not the architect of the scheme but more of a 'mule'. It does not, however, alter the fact that he sustained a conviction for a serious, immigration-related offence."

But it lifted a ban on him re-applying for visas.

"While deportation is not unjust or unduly harsh in all the circumstances, the tribunal considers that any adverse effect on [her and her children] ought to be mitigated as far as is possible, given the genuineness of the marriage and the fact that she and her children are innocent parties."

By Gill Bonnett

Generic passport Source: Breakfast

New Zealand airports 'woefully underprepared' for tourist influx - aviation expert

New Zealand's airports are woefully under prepared for the numbers of tourists coming through their gates, an aviation commentator says.

In an email sent to customers, Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said he was frustrated with the under investment by local airport companies that has created backlogs for travellers.

Mr Luxon also announced that Air New Zealand will stop flying to Vietnam from next year due to engine maintenance issues involving Rolls Royce powered planes.

Aviation commentator Peter Clark said Air New Zealand's problems have been ongoing for years.

"Auckland Airport is a classic example, it's been trying to play catch up for years and it's too late, it should have been done," Mr Clark said.

"The government needs to look into this, where have we gone so badly wrong in New Zealand?"

Mr Clark said he was also concerned New Zealand businesses have not learnt enough lessons from last year's Marsden Point pipeline shut down.

The 10-day shut down last September was caused when a digger burst the pipeline near Ruakaka, spilling up to 80,000 litres of fuel on nearby farmland and causing severe disruption to flights.

Mr Clark said if another burst were to occur, it would be catastrophic.

"If we have a problem and a plane is stuck on a runway for even more than half a day it causes absolute chaos in New Zealand by diverting aircraft, putting people up, accommodation, getting crews to fly aircraft's. Where is the total back up?"

In a statement, a spokesperson for Auckland Airport said it was planning to invest around $2 billion in its business over the next few years as part of a 30 year plan to develop the facility.

He said that included plans for a second runway, new car parking options, improvements to the Domestic Terminal, and new food and beverage outlets.

New facilities for aircraft have already opened. 

New Zealand airports are under prepared for the amount of tourists coming through the gates. Source: