Labour Department bosses have stopped a horticultural contractor from recruiting more foreign workers, after eight Thais complained of exploitation.
Applications from Havenleigh Global Services to employ further international workers have been suspended "until further notice", department spokesman Steve Cantlon said. It follows a complaint from a group of Thais who claimed they had been ripped off by Thailand-based recruitment agents and Havenleigh.
The Thais said they paid agency fees of up to NZ$14,000 each on the false promise of lucrative jobs and believed Havenleigh underpaid them for working 60- to 70-hour, seven-day weeks, including public holidays. The Thais, whose work permits were revoked after their falling out with Havenleigh, have been granted permission to work in Marlborough vineyards until September.
Meanwhile a Marlborough vineyard owner is coming out in defence of Havenleigh, saying he and other growers using the company's workers have been shocked by the allegations. Redwood Pass vineyard's Barry Feickert said he believed Havenleigh worked above board, looked after its employees and was being targeted unfairly.
If the Department of Labour was investigating that company, it should investigate all of Marlborough's contractors on the same basis, he said. Immigration Minister David Cunliffe has begun a full inquiry and Thai authorities are investigating a complaint against the recruitment agents.
Mr Cantlon said the department's investigation would look at whether the company was meeting employment requirements such as minimum wage and holiday entitlements, whether it met its workplace health and safety requirements and whether it was abiding by the conditions agreed on with the department when they recruited workers from overseas.
The eight Thai workers and Havenleigh go to mediation this month in a bid to resolve their dispute.
Adapted from: "Company stops hiring Thais." The Marlborough Express. 11 June 2007.
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