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Wine Marlborough Board Warns Growers To Beware Of Rogue

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Wine Marlborough Board Warns Growers To Beware Of Rogue

The Board of Wine Marlborough is warning grape growers to take care who they employ during the pruning season, and to ensure everyone working on their property has the necessary permits.

Board members have been made aware of a number of shoddy practices being undertaken by contractors in the region and say those issues will be dealt with severely by DOL and IRD. The winter period is one of the busiest times in the vineyard, with thousands of workers being employed to help with the pruning and tying down of grape vines. In previous years there have been concerns about contractors who have taken advantage of part time employees.

Both DOL and IRD have taken legal action against individuals over tax compliance, or after discovering employees had not received holiday pay, or were being paid well below the minimum standard. Wine Marlborough Board Chairman Blair Gibbs says despite all the publicity there are still individuals who are looking after their own pockets and not those of their workers.

"We have heard of situations where the piece rates pruners and tyers are being paid, is not being made up to the minimum wage. Some workers have been receiving just $6 an hour for their work, whereas growers will be paying the contractor far more." "Some workers are having to track down the contractor just to get any form of payment, while others have been paid by cheques that have bounced once banked."

"Growers need to be aware that if there is an issue with IRD or DOL, it will fall back not only on the contractor who has employed the workers, but also the grower who has employed the contractor. If there are workers on your property who are illegal, it is you who could be fined. If your contractor is not paying his tax, or his workers, you may find that you are obliged to take responsibility." Mr Gibbs says with the current economic situation, there is more pressure on contractors to cut costs. "Unfortunately, some of those cost cutting measures are at the expense of legal requirements or workers pay packets."

The industry cannot afford to be seen as condoning the practices of these contractors and Mr Gibbs says Wine Marlborough wants to flush them out.

"We strongly urge workers and growers that have specific complaints to contact the appropriate departments. The only way to ensure that they don't get away with ripping people off, is to make life as difficult as possible for them." 2 He said it was up to growers to ensure they employed only registered contractors, with either RSE or Master Contractor's accreditation.

"That is one simple way of protecting yourself against bad practices and ensuring workers are being treated fairly. These people have proved themselves to the appropriate departments, which means you have some certainty they will be adhering to all the legal requirements."

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