BP franchisee subjected employees to conditions 'verging on slavery'

by John Hilton12 Apr 2018

A BP franchisee in Hastings has been ordered to pay more than $132,000 in arrears to two ex-staff and $120,000 in penalties following a Labour Inspectorate investigation.

Staff at the service station were not paid the minimum wage, or holiday pay by the sole director Jag Rawat.

They were also subjected to unlawful premiums being deducted from their pay and were at times working up to 16 hour shifts, with lesser hours falsely recorded in the business’s records.

Rawat also threatened trouble in the employees’ home countries on return..

The Labour Inspectorate regional manager Loua Ward said it’s alarming to see a franchisee operating under such a well-established brand mistreat and underpay their staff.

“The pair was made to live in accommodation provided by the employer and pay excessive amounts in rent, despite poor living conditions where they were required to sleep on the floor,” said Ward.

“The employees continuously received threats from Rawat saying that he would cancel their visas and they’d be forced to leave New Zealand if they spoke up about the mistreatment.

Mr Rawat previously pleaded guilty to eight charges in the Napier District Court relating to falsifying immigration documents and misleading Immigration New Zealand.

In evidence given to the Labour Inspector, the employees said they were subjected to working conditions that verged on slavery.

“We are always disappointed to find such blatant abuses of employment and immigration law in franchises such as this, and surprised these businesses aren’t doing more to protect their brands.”

“Underpaying and mistreating staff can reflect poorly on a business’s brand for years to come.

“Franchisors must take a stronger approach in ensuring those who they lend their company name to are paying their staff behind the counter what they are entitled to under New Zealand employment law.”

Ward added that migrant workers are vulnerable in New Zealand and may not always be aware of their rights, or may be taken advantage of.

“Rawat saw himself in a position of power, and used this to his employees’ detriment,” said Ward.

“Whether a company is a small business or a larger one such as this, the Labour Inspectorate will hold employers to account.”

The seriousness of the breaches resulted in Rawat being personally liable for a further $24,000 in penalties.

 

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