The parent company of Burger King New Zealand has been banned from sponsoring migrant visas after breaching the Minimum Wage Act. Antares Restaurant Group, which operates 82 Burger King restaurants across New Zealand was ordered to pay a former employee $3500 in compensation for the breach, and will not be able to hire workers on migrant visas until June 2019.
"In the statements of problem and reply filed in the Authority, Ms Desai claimed that in the fortnights ending 25 May 2017, 11 June 2017 and 9 July 2017 she worked hours over and above her contracted hours of 90 per fortnight," the ERA decision read. "She says because her salary was so close to the minimum wage all three fortnights brought her below the minimum wage for the hours she worked. The shortfall for the accepted three fortnights amounted to $194.57 gross."
Her contract stated that no additional payment would be made for the extra hours. Due to a law change in April 2017, employers who have been ordered to pay a penalty are viewed as being non-compliant with employment law and therefore are unable to support a visa application – seventy businesses had faced the punishment within six months of the law coming into effect. The employee in question was not a migrant.
"This is a large high-profile corporation and shows that this is not just a problem for small restaurants and fruit pickers – it goes right across most sectors and company sizes," said Unite Union national secretary Gerard Hehir. "Employers who steal from their employees need to be sent a very clear message. Banning them from employing vulnerable migrant workers is a good start. If an employer is not able to guarantee the most basic minimum conditions allowed by law, they should not be able to hire vulnerable workers."
However, the union was also concerned that existing migrant Burger King workers would not be able to renew their visas due to the ban and will be working with Immigration New Zealand to find a solution.