19 July 2024

Pizza Hut ex-owners convicted for exploiting Indian workers

By Gurbir Singh:

Exploitation of migrants by employers, especially those who are on student or work visas continues in spite of stricter penalties by Immigration Department and harsher punishments by New Zealand courts.

Unfortunately, majority of these victims have been Indian nationals and it is also not surprising that many of these employers are Indians themselves. Unscrupulous employers find these migrants easy prey, and some of these ‘exploited’ migrants initially are a party to these exploitation as they need an employer to obtain a work visa and residency subsequently.

At least three fresh cases of exploitation have surfaced in the past few weeks. Latest is of the Rotorua restaurant owner and the other two of the Indian employers, who formerly owned Pizza Hut franchise who were recently convicted and sentenced for exploitation of their workers.

Davinder Singh, 30, whose company Kishan Singh & Sons Ltd formerly owned Pizza Hut franchises in Gore, Richmond, Blenheim and Nelson,was last month convicted of 25 charges of exploiting 12 Indian nationals who held work and student visas.

Singh, who has been here for nearly 13 years and holds New Zealand citizenship was sentenced to nine months’ home detention, 200 hours of community service and ordered to pay $150,000 in victim reparation.

Davinder Singh was paying these workers less than minimum wage, forcing them to work long hours, refusing to provide time off or issue payslips and exploiting the employee/ employer relationship. Many of these employees were on work visas and were only paid for 40 hours work a week despite working between 45-60 hours regularly. One employee was forced to work seven days a week without sick leave, holiday pay, overtime or days in lieu for public holidays worked. Another employee living in Davinder’s home was made to cook and clean for him and his family. Another employee was owed almost $65,000 in outstanding pay.

Singh was also convicted of 13 charges of aiding and abetting employees to breach conditions of their temporary visas, a charge of providing false or misleading information to an immigration officer and seven charges of obtaining by deception.

His company was liquidated last year and the Pizza Hut franchises were sold in 2016.

In another case of exploitation, TNRLNZ Ltd which operated a Pizza Hut store in Hastings was convicted and fined $2,000 at the Auckland District Court for unlawfully employing a worker. Mahipal Reddy Kolan director of TNRLNZ Ltd was also convicted and fined $1,500 after seeking discharge without conviction.

Kolan sold the pizza franchise after the offence and currently owns a Subway franchise. The worker who breached his visa conditions left the country in September last year.

The question, however, still remains, whether such exemplary punishments would deter orders others from taking advantage of these vulnerable workers,or whether international students could trust Indian employers while seeking jobs?

Also published in PressReader.com

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