Indian-origin hoteliers face jail term for underpaying workers

Wellington, Sep 8 (IANS) Two Indian-origin managers of New Zealand’s popular Indian restaurant chain, Masala are facing up to seven years in jail or a $100,000 fine after pleading guilty to underpaying their workers, a media report said.

Joti Jain and Rajwinder Singh Grewal jointly pleaded guilty to a total of 20 immigration and exploitation charges at the Auckland district court on Tuesday, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Jain was the main target of a ministry of business innovation and employment sting, which until Tuesday did not reveal her identity and full facts of offences committed by her.

Court documents revealed that Jain significantly underpaid four employees between 2009 and 2014 as she promised to help them obtain a visa.

According to the New Zealand daily, Jain offered illegal immigrant Gagandeep Singh the position of assistant manager with the promise of paying him $15 an hour for his 30-40 hours of work.

Instead, he worked up to 11 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week, and was paid $250 after a week of unpaid “training”.

Singh eventually quit the job after having effectively been paid $2.64 an hour during his tenure.

Grewal, who managed the Bucklands Beach Masala, contacted Fijian national Bimal Roy Prasad in September 2014 in relation to a job opening for a chef.

He took him to meet Jain and was instead asked to help in the kitchen. Prasad ended up receiving only $40 as his pay after working for more than nine weeks for the company.

In more than one case, workers were told to submit timesheets indicating they were working about 30 hours a week, when in reality it was usually more than double that, the daily said.

According to New Zealand’s Employment Relations, the current adult minimum wage rates (before tax) that apply to employees aged 16 or over is $14.75 an hour. The minimum rates that apply to starting-out workers and employees on training is $11.80 an hour.

“Employees have to be paid at least the minimum hourly wage rate for any extra time worked over eight hours a day or over 40 hours a week or 80 hours per fortnight,” it said.

Grewal and Jain will be sentenced next month.

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