Labour Inspectorate's refusal to investigate workplace complaints slammed

Newshub can reveal the Labour Inspectorate is refusing to investigate some complaints about illegal behaviour in the workplace, saying they don't have the resources.

Emails show caseloads of investigators are so high, they're telling some complainants it'll take six months before anyone can help.

Kareem Shaik, 28, worked at an auto electrical shop in Auckland until recently.

He was instructed to pay thousands just to get the job offer. Once employed, he says he was grossly underpaid.

"I was literally crying about that because he only paid me $5 per hour every week," he told Newshub.

He went to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE's) Labour Inspectorate and filed a complaint. He got the following response:

"...the Northern Labour Inspectorate will not be undertaking an investigation as there are no resources currently available due to the current number of investigations and individual inspectors' caseloads."

Anu Kaloti from the Migrant Workers Association says she's "angry and outraged" by the response.

"There's no justification for it."

Mr Shaik made the complaint in early October, but the email indicates there's a waiting period of at least six months.

"I can't wait for six months, it's too long," he says. "I want justice as soon as possible."

FIRST Union general secretary Dennis Maga wants a specialist exploitation team set up with powers to randomly check employers.

"I don't believe that saying to a victim you have to wait for six months is acceptable. I think that is unfair and unreasonable."

The Labour Inspectorate refused to be interviewed, but says it has 348 active investigations.

It says the complainant in the case highlighted was overseas when he made the complaint, meaning interviews would need to be conducted over the phone - and that alone would have have placed extra pressure on resources.

The Government is planning to double the number of inspectors over three years.

"Doubling them over the next three years, it sounds like it's too little, too late," says Ms Kaloti.

That's certainly true for Mr Shaik. He's had to return to India - but says he'll continue to fight for what he's owed.