‘Exploitive’ employers called out for offering less than minimum wage

Drive 16/05/2018

A workers' rights activist has publicly shamed employers who are advertising work for below the minimum wage on a backpacking website.

Chloe Ann-King, who is backpacking around New Zealand, discovered that a number of jobs were being advertised for less than minimum wage.

Jobs paying less than $16.50 included housekeeping work, seasonal fruit-picking and general farm hand jobs.

The national minimum wage increased by 75 cents to $16.50 per hour on 1 April, 2018.

Ms Ann-King told Drive’s Ryan Bridge and Lisa Owen she was surprised at the “sheer arrogance” of the businesses putting forth the job ads on website Backpacker Board.

One employer Newshub spoke with said she was overseas tending to her sick mother and was unaware in the change in minimum wage.

But Ms Ann-King said that’s pretty hard to believe, particularly given that the minimum wage increases every year at the same time.

One of the worst ads was for a farm hand to work all seven days a week with just $500 pay per week lump sum, according to Ms Ann-King.

“There was absolutely no stipulation to how many hours you’d actually be working,” she told RadioLIVE.

“Also, they asked that you be single. That’s kind of creepy as well.”

She guesses that employers who are “a little bit smarter” are certainly doing similar illegal employer activity behind closed doors.

When a worker needs to pay rent, Ms Ann-King says desperation leads them to accept jobs with pay lower than minimum wage.

“It’s almost like you don’t have a choice, like you’re coerced into taking this job because you’re desperate. And I actually think employers are well aware of that.”

Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment Labour Inspectorate national manager Stu Lumsden said everyone working in New Zealand is entitled to at least the minimum wage for every hour worked.

He says anything less than this is "unacceptable".

Federated Farmers’ Chris Lewis said he has been aware of such employer issues happening “from time to time”.

“The ones who are doing wrong need to be chased.

Mr Lewis defended the farming industry from being the only sector guilty of exploitive issues, remarking that it’s “like any small business in New Zealand, there’s always more than one or two”.

Those posting on these boards should be aware that the Labour Inspectorate have proactively visited businesses which advertised for less than the minimum wage.

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway says employers need to make sure they are aware of their obligations, and they know what the minimum wage is.

"There may be some confusion in some of these advertisements, with such things like accommodation wrapped into the equation.

"But regardless, employers need to know that they do have obligations under the law - and that ignorance of the law is no defence."

Those posting on these boards should be aware that the Labour Inspectorate have proactively visited businesses which advertised for less than the minimum wage.

Listen to the full interview above.

Drive with Ryan Bridge and Lisa Owen, 3pm - 6pm Weekdays and streaming live on'rova' channel 9 - available on Android and iPhone.

RadioLIVE.