Wineries told to check supply chains in wake of worker exploitation

There's concern that two recent worker exploitation cases in the viticulture industry could have a negative effect on the New Zealand wine industry.

In the latest case, Marlborough vineyard contracting company Double Seven Services and its owner have been collectively penalised $127,500 by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) for falsifying and failing to keep wage and leave records for 199 migrant workers.

The Labour Inspectorate is now calling on the viticulture industry to thoroughly check their supply chains to prevent wine labels being produced by exploited labour.

Inspectorate Viticulture sector lead, Kevin Finnegan said it was the second determination the ERA has made in two months on a viticulture contracting company for exploiting workers. 

"It's a must for all wine businesses to thoroughly check their supply chains to make sure their wine labels and products haven't been produced in any way with exploited labour, as this can also have a devastating effect on its reputation," he said.

"The potential for investors to withdraw from the industry because of poor social practises is high, if changes are not made," Mr Finnegan said.

Double Seven Services has been penalised by the ERA $85,000 and its sole shareholder Qin Zhang penalised $42,500, for 59 breaches of minimum employment standards, including underpaying wages and holiday pay, as well as not providing employment agreements for 104 workers. 

The workers were paid unlawful 'piecemeal' rates for their work.

Double Seven has also been determined to make wage arrears totalling nearly $8,000 and pay more than $5,000 for charging one worker a premium to have his job.

The ERA determined the full extent of losses to all employees is not known, as mandatory employment records weren't kept by the company, so therefore total wage underpayments were more likely to be $65,000.

Anyone who has information about minimum standards not being met is encouraged to phone the MBIE's service centre, where calls will be handled in a confidential manner, on 0800 20 90 20.