More employment woes for Marlborough wine

A Marlborough vineyard in sunset

The Labour Inspectorate is calling on the viticulture industry to thoroughly check their supply chains to prevent wine labels being produced by exploited labour. The calls come after Marlborough vineyard contracting company Double Seven Services and its owner were penalised $127,500 by the Employment Relations Authority for falsifying and failing to keep wage and leave records for 199 migrant workers.

“This is the second determination the ERA has made in two months, following an Inspectorate investigation, on a viticulture contracting company for exploiting workers,” said Kevin Finnegan, Inspectorate Viticulture lead. “Despite this company ceasing to trade over a year ago, penalties and arrears will be pursued in full.”

Double Seven Services has been penalised by the ERA $85,000 and its sole shareholder Qin Zhang penalised $42,500, for 59 breaches of minimum employment standards, including underpaying wages and holiday pay, as well as not providing employment agreements for 104 workers. The workers were paid unlawful ‘piecemeal’ rates for their work.

Double Seven has also been ordered to make wage arrears totalling nearly $8,000 and pay more than $5,000 for charging one worker a premium to have his job.

“It’s a must for all wine businesses to thoroughly check their supply chains to make sure their wine labels and products haven’t been produced in any way with exploited labour, as this can also have a devastating effect on its reputation,” Finnegan said. “The potential for investors to withdraw from the industry because of poor social practices is high, if changes are not made.”

There is also a call for the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand programme to include employment standards and labour-hire components into the certification scheme for all the businesses they certify.