A judge has described the working and living conditions of workers at a Filipino restaurant as akin to modern day slavery. 3 Kings Food in Birkenhead was brought to the attention of Immigration New Zealand by the Philippines Consulate, which was in turn alerted by one of the workers.

Subsequent investigations found that one worker was only paid for 40 hours a week, despite working up to 60 without any breaks. For the last ten weeks of his employment, he wasn’t paid anything at all. The Labour Inspectorate estimated the worker was owed around $22,000 – $15,000 in unpaid wages, $5000 in holiday pay and $2000 for having been paid under minimum wage.

The owners, Luisito and Virgil Balajadia, were sentenced at Auckland District Court to 26 months in prison and eight months home detention respectively and each ordered to pay $7200 to the victim.

“This employee was living at the defendants’ house and was taken to the restaurant by the owners every morning and then back to their house at night,” said Immigration assistant general manager Peter Devoy. “He was told he would be reported to the police and sent home if he did not perform well in his job. He could only leave the house for short periods of time and cleaned the defendants’ house on Mondays when the restaurant was closed.”