Exclusive: Auckland store manager desperate for residency says he was paid $7 an hour

A south Auckland liquor store manager says his boss has been paying him just $7 an hour, in a case a group representing migrants says is one of the worst they've come across recently. 

But the worker's boss claims he's lying - even though Newshub has obtained evidence which suggests the contrary. 

Super Liquor Ōtāhuhu has super deals on booze - but the deal this worker got was far from super. Desperate to get residency, the man agreed to work long hours at a rate of just $7 an hour.

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"They said you have to work for two to three years at low pay, around $7 an hour, and after that we'll help you with your visa and residency," he told Newshub. 

The idea was the worker's boss would help get him residency by eventually employing him at a new business outside Auckland - but that never happened. 

Meanwhile, the worker says he was working well over the 35 hours in his contract at the Ōtāhuhu shop - between 80 to 90 hours a week, he claims. For each of those 80 to 90 hours, the worker says he got just $7.

But at the shop, his boss Ranbir Singh told Newshub he never paid him illegally, and says the employee is lying. 

But a secret recording obtained by Newshub suggests otherwise. In it, the $7 figure is discussed twice. The conversation starts with the worker expressing frustration at not getting residency. 

"It would have helped me if you could buy this business. I am working with you on $7 for the last three years," the worker says.

Mr Singh responds: "What you are saying is right."

The conversation then moves to the difficulties of finding new workers. 

"Business can work, but the problem is we cannot find the guy because the money - $7 is not enough," the worker says.

 The boss replies: "Yeah."

 The worker goes on saying this type of money is not easy to survive on. Again, his boss agrees with him.

Newshub played the recording to the worker's boss, but he says he must have got confused.

"I don't understand what he said that time," Mr Singh says.

But the Migrant Workers Association's Anu Kaloti doesn't buy that explanation. 

"You cannot treat another human being - especially if they're your staff, your employee - you cannot mistreat them like that," Ms Kaloti told Newshub.

The worker was on an essential skills visa - a visa type that's attached to one employer. 

"These people are really vulnerable and the greedy employers are taking advantage of their vulnerability."

A lawyer for the Super Liquor store told Newshub that the company was treating the dispute as "a private employment matter".

Newshub has requested evidence to support the company's view that the worker has made up the claims, but Newshub hasn't been given anything to support that. 

The worker, who is 25, has now left his job after realising he was being used.