Labour inspectors target Bay of Plenty kiwifruit orchards

With the annual kiwifruit harvest underway, labour inspectors are visiting Bay of Plenty kiwifruit orchards this week to check workers are being treated fairly.

Inspectors from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE) will be making sure those involved in the harvest are paying their employees correctly and are keeping accurate and complete records to show compliance.

Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager Kevin Finnegan said the checks are part of a regular visitation programme by the Inspectorate.

"This year, the main focus is on employers with a recorded history of employment issues and on checking that the industry assurance programmes are working as they should," he said.

He said there will also be random visits to orchards to check that employees are being treated legally and are receiving the correct entitlements. 

"All employers who breach minimum standards will face compliance action," said Finnegan.

Those with serious breaches will face penalties of up to $50,000 per breach for an individual and $100,000 per breach for companies.

Businesses failing to produce complete and accurate time and wage records and written employment agreements can be fined $1000 for each employee and up to $20,000 in total.

"We expect all employers to get this basic step right. Good record keeping is the only way to ensure and demonstrate compliance."

"We know that customers expect employment standards compliance as part of New Zealand's brand for fair treatment of workers, and the Labour Inspectorate has an important role in monitoring it."

He said kiwifruit businesses also need to make sure they're using only certified contractors. 

"Poor quality sub-contracting and labour on hire business models increase the risk of employment law breaches in the supply chain."

Free information and advice for employers and employees is available on the employment.govt.nz website and also through MBIE's contact centre.

MBIE is also encouraging anyone concerned about the employment situation of themselves or someone they know to call its contact centre on 0800 20 90 20, where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment.

Newshub.