Waikato berry grower to pay $76K for labour law breaches

The investigation showed employment law breaches in respect of more than 300 employees.
The investigation showed employment law breaches in respect of more than 300 employees. Photo credit: Newshub

A Waikato berry farm and its director have been ordered to pay $76,532 for employment law breaches.

Olde Berry Farm Limited, which is based near Hamilton, was ordered to pay $50,000 in penalties and $16,532 in unpaid minimum wage and holiday pay by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA)

Managing Director Andrew Peter Molloy was made personally responsible for an additional $10,000 in penalties.

The farm came to the Labour Inspectorate's attention in 2017, when they investigated another farm, Matangi Berry Farm Limited, which operated on the same orchard.

The investigation showed employment law breaches in respect of 304 Olde Berry Farm employees. 

The majority of these related to poor record keeping and failure to provide workers with employment agreements, while the farm also failed to pay 150 employees their correct holiday pay entitlements. 

Five employees were found to be paid below the minimum wage.

"It is imperative that employers treat their workers properly," said Labour Inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan.

"This grower sells produce to supermarkets, which also compromises the supply chain of those supermarkets. 

"Ultimately, this compromises supermarket customers who do not expect unlawful and exploitative practices to be associated with the fresh produce they purchase," he said.

Finnegan said it was the second poor result seen from the horticulture sector over the past month.

"Which is particularly disappointing given the work the Inspectorate has undertaken work with the sector to assist them with getting their employment practices on an assured and legal footing."

Many workers were young migrant workers, who were less likely to be aware of their rights and particularly vulnerable to being taken advantage of, he said.

"The ERA determination sends a clear message that businesses and individuals like Mr Molloy, cannot get away with exploiting workers."

The Matangi Berry Farm case investigated by the Labour Inspectorate is currently before the Employment Court.