“Exploitation is an issue which affects all of us."
Two men who owned an Indian restaurant in New Zealand have been convicted of migrant exploitation.
It was found that they underpaid restaurant workers and forced some to return part of their pay after it was increased to meet work visa requirements.
Dalip Singh Baidwan and Matvant Kaur – who operated Indian Sumner in Christchurch – were convicted earlier in February 2023 of three representative charges under section 351 of the Immigration Act 2009.
The pair were found guilty of underpaying migrant workers and failing to observe holiday pay obligations.
The exploitation happened between May 2015 and August 2020, when Immigration New Zealand (INZ) was first made aware of the allegations.
Some of the workers were also made to return part of their wages to the restaurant owners after their pay was increased to meet work visa requirements.
On February 3, 2023, Baidwan and Kaur were sentenced by the Christchurch District Court to six months of community detention and ordered to pay full reparation between them.
Reparation totals $124,400.
INZ verification and compliance general manager Richard Owen said the offending was “serious”.
In a statement, he said: “Paying less than the minimum wage, failing to provide holiday pay and manipulating the visa system is unacceptable.
“Exploitation is an issue which affects all of us.
“As well as affecting migrants directly, it also harms legitimate businesses which are undercut by these practices.”
He went on to say that INZ’s priority was to protect migrant workers from such exploitation.
Mr Owen added: “We vigorously investigate such cases to hold offenders to account.”
The restaurant is now owned by different people and is a Coriander’s restaurant.
Mr Owen said: “Immigration New Zealand has no concerns about Coriander’s Sumner, they are a completely separate business with no connection to the two defendants.”
Stuff reported that INZ encouraged anyone who thought they or someone else was being exploited in the workplace to report it immediately.
Reports could be made to MBIE’s exploitation reporting line on 0800 200 088.
Cases of people trafficking should be reported to local police or 111 (if it is an emergency).
Information could also be reported anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.
Previously, a restaurant owner was ordered to pay $75,000 to an ex-employee for exploitation and unpaid wages.
Susey George was employed by Madhan Bisht at the Curry Leaf Restaurant in Auckland.
During that time, he lived at Bisht’s home. Bisht told him he had to live there as part of the visa sponsorship process.
Documents revealed that after working hours, Bisht often made Mr George do chores around his home.
During his time working at the restaurant, Mr George worked 70 hours per week for seven days.
The authority heard that usually, he worked for eight to 10 weeks without any days off.