Police, WorkSafe, Labour Inspectorate visit Gloriavale after allegations of controlling behaviour, worker exploitation

Police, WorkSafe and the Labour Inspectorate have all visited Gloriavale after a Newshub investigation uncovered claims of controlling behaviour by leaders and the exploitation of workers.

Newshub can reveal Justice Minister Andrew Little has instructed the Labour Inspectorate to get involved, after the agency said last week it couldn't intervene. 

Newshub arrived at Gloriavale on Monday in search of answers from the leadership, but it got no response at one of the administration buildings. That was until one of Gloriavale's shepherds, Enoch Upright, was seen.

When approached about allegations made against Gloriavale leaders, Upright directed Newshub to book in at the office "for health and safety".

Current Gloriavale members told Newshub last week "every aspect" of their life, including their job and the hours they worked, were controlled by the leaders.

Current members also said they're threatened with being separated from their families if they disobey the leaders. One said he worked on occasion 20-23 hour shifts, with little sleep before the next one.

"You're very rude coming in like this," Upright told Newshub.

When asked if he thought workers were being exploited or if he agreed that people there had been asking for more freedom from the leadership, he didn't answer.

Instead, Upright walked inside where a quick meeting took place with drawn curtains.

"We ask you to please leave the property," Upright told Newshub after the meeting finished.

Newshub has contacted Gloriavale leaders six times over the past week requesting an interview.

WorkSafe inspectors were also on site at Gloriavale on Monday, and Little said he's asked the Labour Inspectorate, which investigates worker exploitation, to get involved.

"I've seen the reports and it does look like exploitation," he said.

Last week, the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, the agency that oversees the Inspectorate, said it had decided in 2017 it couldn't intervene because the workers at Gloriavale are volunteers, not employees.

Little said he isn't so sure. 

"We cannot allow religious doctrine to be a defence to people who look like they're being exploited and who look like they're not having the employment standards that every other worker in New Zealand has applying to them. That is wrong."

Police also visited Gloriavale, there to check on the welfare of one of the men who spoke to Newshub about the allegations. He was reportedly bullied in front of 70 others and told to repent after blowing the whistle.

"We can't comment," police said. "We've been told we can't comment."

Worksafe Relations & Safety Minister, Andrew Little, has asked MBIE's Labour Inspectorate to review its 2017 investigation into Gloriavale. This will reconsider whether workers at Gloriavale are employees rather than volunteers. MBIE's original inquiry decided they were volunteers. 

If you have information relevant, contact the Labour Inspectorate's National Manager, Stu Lumsden: stuart.lumsden@mbie.govt.nz