5 liquor stores lose licences due to worker exploitation

Source: 1News

Five Canterbury liquor stores have had their liquor licences cancelled after their owner and directors were discovered to have been exploiting their workers.

A liquor store.

In December 2020, the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ordered Nekita Enterprises, and director Harjit Singh, to pay a combined total of $125,000 in penalties for operating a dual payroll system to avoid paying four employees the minimum wage for all the hours they worked and failing to keep accurate employment records for 59 employees.

The case was taken to the ERA by the Labour Inspectorate, following employee complaints.

The penalties were in addition to $21,390 that Nekita Enterprises had already paid out to those four former employees in outstanding minimum wage and holiday pay entitlements.

In light of this, the Alcohol Regulatory and Licencing Authority (ARLA) has ruled the business is unsuitable to hold a liquor licence, cancelling them for all of Nekita's five stores.

Harjit Singh surrendered his manager's certificate while his wife and fellow director Shereen Singh also had her manager's certificate cancelled by ARLA.

Labour Inspectorate retail sector strategy lead Loua Ward welcomed the decision, saying it "shifted the balance of power" from employers to those being exploited.

"This decision sends a clear message that businesses that exploit their workers can lose their licences," Ward said, while encouraging other exploited workers to come forward and seek advice.

“The majority of New Zealand employers want to do the right thing. Ensuring a level playing field is especially important for the labour market’s recovery from the effects of Covid-19."