'Wage theft': Burger King faces hiring restrictions for breaching minimum wage laws

The restaurant won't be able to hire migrant workers for a year.
The restaurant won't be able to hire migrant workers for a year. Photo credit: File

Burger King's parent company has been barred from hiring migrant workers for a year following accusations of under-paying staff. 

The ban has been issued by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) after the company was found to be in breach of the Minimum Wage Act 1993.

The enforcement action has been welcomed by Unite Union, with National Secretary Gerard Hehir noting the high-profile of the company involved which could raise awareness of "wage theft". 

Burger King's parent company, Antares Restaurant Group, which was purchased by New York-based private equity firm Blackstone Group in 2011, operates 83 restaurants and employs over 2,600 staff in New Zealand. 

Antares Restaurant Group was on Wednesday added to MBIE's list of businesses which have breached minimum wage laws. The company will now be unable to hire migrant workers until July 2019. 

"Migrant workers are the most vulnerable to exploitation because their visa conditions often tie them to one employer," said Mr Hehir. "They fear speaking out because if they lose their job, they lose their ability to work in New Zealand."

A Burger King worker was paid a $39,500 annual salary, but was not paid for extra hours during her shifts. The worker established that when adding up extra hours, she was getting below the minimum wage. 

The worker established that when adding up extra hours, she was getting below the minimum wage. 

But Unite Union is concerned that some existing Burger King workers will not be able to renew their visas in the next 12 months because of the ban. 

The union said it will be working closely with Immigration New Zealand and other employers they have relationships with to find alternative employment. 

"It's time to call it what it is: wage theft. It is a huge problem in New Zealand and around the world. In the US it is estimated that wage theft outstrips robbery, car theft, burglary and larceny combined."

Antares Restaurant Group has been approached by Newshub for comment. 

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