9 Sep 2014

Migrant workers caught by liquidation

2:50 pm on 9 September 2014

A group of migrant workers claim they are collectively owed $100,000 worth of holiday pay from a Chinese restaurant chain in Auckland.

Six Chinese migrant workers from one central city branch laid formal complaints with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment just a week before the company went into liquidation.

Zhaoyu Zhong worked as a bartender at the restaurant based in central Auckland.

The other two restaurants are situated in Howick and in Albany.

Mr Zhong said he's owed more than $13,000 in outstanding holiday pay.

It was not until a few months after another employee resigned over her hours being reduced without her knowledge, that he, along with five other employees, lodged complaints with the Ministry in April.

He said their employers became aware of their complaints, and without any notice at the end of the month, they announced the company's liquidation.

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Photo: AFP

Loophole in the law

A Chinese employment advocate, May Moncur, is assisting the workers and said it was yet another case of migrant workers being exploited in this country.

She said the fact that some companies choose the cheaper option to go into liquidation over paying outstanding holiday pay to staff, shows a legal loophole which the government must address.

"I have a lot of migrant clients. They are Indians, they are Chinese, and the way they are treated - the number of clients who approach me is growing."

May Moncur said the Government needed to intervene and ensure the law gave effective protection for immigrants wanting to work in this country.

She said she understands the company is still trading.

"We believe the company hired a large number of employees in the past few years so we believe this is not an issue only concerning these four or six employees."

Ms Moncur said the next step for the workers was very unclear and there had been little information from the liquidator.

The Union Network of Migrants, which is a group within the First Union, says up to seven companies this year have gone into liquidation rather pay holiday or sick leave out to workers.

Its director Dennis Maga said a loophole in current laws allowed this to happen, and small businesses considered it the easy way out.

Mr Maga wants the next Government to make directors of companies individually liable for their obligation once their business goes into liquidation.

Meanwhile, Zhaoyu Zhong says he wants to keep living here, but is worried about the future.

"I don't have a job I just have my aunty," he said.

The liquidator could not be reached for comment.

This case comes just a week after three men in Nelson faced the first ever people-trafficking charges to be laid in New Zealand.