Migrant workers allegedly exploited by Bottle-O franchisee
posted on 6th March 2019
The Migrant Workers Association has gone to RNZ with claims that a franchisee of the Australian Bottle-O chain has underpaid workers in his Auckland and South Island stores. The Labour Inspectorate is investigating, having previously issued an Enforceable Undertaking to the owner for failings in employment agreements, record keeping, and provision of holiday and leave entitlements.
Franchisors take such failings very seriously, as they are a breach of franchise agreements which require franchisees to comply with New Zealand employment law obligations. In many cases, the franchisor terminates the franchise agreement, leaving the franchisee with no business as in this case.
The Franchise Association has been working pro-actively with the Labour Inspectorate and specialists in the employment area to help franchisors make franchisees better aware of their obligations.
Three migrant workers claim Bottle-O franchise owner Ravinder Arora has underpaid them by tens of thousands of dollars, and even asked them to repay him money, the Migrant Workers Association says.
The association said in one case a worker at the stores based in Auckland and the South Island worked 84 hours in a week but was only paid for 32 hours, meaning their actual pay was only $7 an hour, half the legal minimum wage of the time.
In another case Mr Arora paid the workers correctly and according to their pay slips, but would then demand the employees refund him thousands of dollars in cash, again leaving their pay packet light and below the minimum wage.
The Labour Inspectorate has confirmed it is "currently progressing proactive investigations in Mr Arora's Nikhil Himalaya Companies".
RNZ has made repeated attempts to contact Ravinder Arora - he hung up on our producer after telling her to contact his lawyer, but refused to provide details for them.
Employees at two of his Auckland businesses today said he was not on site, but that they were paid fairly and above the minimum wage.