Bay of Plenty supermarket fined after migrant worker paid less than $3 an hour

Man working at a supermarket checkout
A migrant worker was paid well below minimum wage at a Bay of Plenty supermarket. Photo credit: Getty

A supermarket has been fined $250,000 for paying a migrant worker well below minimum wage - at times, just $3 an hour.

Sai Bliss Ltd, a retailer in the Bay of Plenty, agreed to pay the man $18 an hour while he was employed on a work visa. But while that rate was set out in his employment agreement, the man ended up being paid just $250 a week.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) says at times, his hourly rate worked out to less than $3 and he was not given adequate holiday pay.

Company director Bhupinder Bhardwaj told the man his pay rate wouldn't be changed and threatened to terminate his visa. The employee was underpaid for a period of almost 18 months, and by the end was owed more than $73,000 in arrears. 

This week Bhardwaj and Sai Bliss were sentenced in the Waihi District Court after pleading guilty to charges of providing false information to INZ, as well as exploitation charges under the Immigration Act for failing to observe the Minimum Wage and Holidays Acts.

Bhardwaj was sentenced to 12 months' home detention and Sai Bliss was fined $250,000. 

INZ assistant general manager Peter Devoy warns employers that exploiting migrants will have severe consequences. 

"The exploitation of migrant workers by paying them less than minimum wage, forcing them to work excessive hours and threatening their visa status - such as happened in this case - is unacceptable and won't be tolerated by Immigration New Zealand."

He says the Sai Bliss employee suffered "significant exploitation" and is pleased with the sentencing, which he says is a strong deterrent.

"This is happening all too often in New Zealand, and we won't stand by and let it happen. Where there is evidence, we will investigate and prosecute."

Anyone who believes they're being exploited by their employer should contact authorities. To report migrant exploitation call MBIE on 0800 20 90 20, and in cases of people trafficking call the police. Issues can also be reported anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via the online form.


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