Winery labour company fined $127K for underpaying migrant workers, falsifying records

A vineyard contracting company has been fined $127,500 for falsifying and failing to keep wage and leave records for 199 migrant workers.

Marlborough vineyard contracting company Double Seven Services and its owner have been collectively penalised by the Employment Relations Authority.

Double Seven Services was fined by the ERA $85,000 and its sole shareholder, Qin Zhang, was penalised $42,500 for 59 breaches of minimum employment standards.

The breaches included underpaying wages and holiday pay, as well as not providing employment agreements for 104 workers.

The workers were paid unlawful "piecemeal" rates for their work, a statement from MBIE says.

Double Seven has also been ordered to make wage arrears totalling nearly $8000 and pay more than $5000 for charging one worker a premium to have his job.

The Labour Inspectorate is calling on the viticulture industry to thoroughly check their supply chains to prevent wine labels being produced by exploited labour.

Inspectorate Viticulture sector lead Kevin Finnegan said the case was the the second determination the ERA had made in two months, following an Inspectorate investigation on another viticulture contracting company for exploiting workers.

"Despite this company ceasing to trade over a year ago, penalties and arrears will be pursued in full,” Mr Finnegan said.

“It’s a must for all wine businesses to thoroughly check their supply chains to make sure their wine labels and products haven’t been produced in any way with exploited labour, as this can also have a devastating effect on its reputation."

The potential for investors to withdraw from the industry because of poor social practices was high if changes were not made, he added.

There is also a call for the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand programme to include employment standards and labour hire components into the certification scheme for all the businesses they certify, he said.

A Marlborough vineyard. (File photo) Source: 1 NEWS