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Company officials sentenced on migrant exploitation charges Friday, 16 October 2015

Two people involved in the management of the Auckland Indian restaurant chain Masala have been sentenced at the Auckland District Court this morning on charges related to the exploitation of migrant workers.

The charges followed an extensive investigation by Immigration New Zealand (INZ). The investigation found that four Indian nationals were significantly underpaid between 2012 and 2014, forced to under record the hours they worked, return some of their pay back to their employer and not paid any holiday pay.

Joti Jain was sentenced to 11 months’ home detention with conditions, one of which is not to manage a business, employ anyone or undertake voluntary work or training without permission of the probation officer. She was also ordered to do 220 hours’ community work and ordered to pay almost $58,000 reparation. She pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to 15 charges, including exploitation and conspiracy charges, aiding and abetting a person to remain unlawfully in New Zealand and supplying false and misleading information to an immigration officer. The charges relate to four migrant workers.

The second defendant, Rajwinder Singh Grewal, was sentenced to four and a half month’s home detention on similar conditions as Jain. He is already serving 400 hours’ community work on other charges, which will remain in force. Grewal was also ordered to pay almost $5,000 reparation. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to five charges, including exploitation charges relating to two workers and aiding and abetting two workers to either breach their visa conditions, or remain in New Zealand unlawfully.

One of the workers was employed by the defendants even though he advised them he was unlawfully in New Zealand. He worked for the company for almost a year for up to 11 hours a day six or seven days a week and was paid the equivalent of an hourly rate of just $2.64.

The second victim worked approximately 66 hours a week for three months at the Masala restaurant in Takapuna and was paid $3 an hour. She was also asked to clean Jain’s house on occasions and by the time she left her job after 10 months she was owed wages and holiday pay of more than $23,000.

The third victim was paid a total of $40 for approximately seven weeks’ work as a chef. The fourth victim was significantly underpaid during his time as a waiter and restaurant manager but was provided with employment documentation that was designed to deceive INZ into believing that as an employer it was complying with all relevant employment legislation and paying the waiter his legal entitlements.

Earlier, the Labour Inspectorate carried out an investigation and established breaches of employment legislation and statutory entitlements. The Employment Relations Authority subsequently imposed a penalty of $66,000 against the Masala companies.

A third defendant is currently facing related charges.

INZ Assistant General Manager, Peter Devoy, says that the sentence imposed today sends a very strong message that migrant exploitation is not tolerated.

“The overriding principle is that migrant workers have the same employment rights as all other workers in New Zealand,” Mr Devoy says. “Addressing the exploitation of migrants is a priority for the Ministry and we will not tolerate employers who exploit migrant labour for their own commercial advantage.”

Mr Devoy says the Ministry does not hesitate to prosecute in cases where warranted. “We encourage anyone currently being forced to work in New Zealand illegally for less than the minimum wage and/or excessive hours to contact Immigration New Zealand or the Labour Inspectorate, where your concerns will be handled in a safe environment,” he says.

People can also contact CrimeStoppers anonymously.