December 4, 2020

Banned employer fined for exploitation of farm migrant workers

Hawke’s Bay’s Kapur had set-up a sham business

A Hawke’s Bay-based horticulture employer, who breached labour laws in 2015, and was banned from managing companies, has again been penalised for breaches against migrant employees.

Gautam Rajan Kapur has been ordered by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), to pay more than $25,000 for employment breaches committed against four migrant workers in the bay of Plenty.

Photo for representational purposes only

The women worked for five days on a kiwifruit orchard in Pukehina operated by Joba Orchard Limited, but were never paid for their work.

In 2015, the ERA penalised three Hawke’s Bay businesses, associated to Kapur and last year, the Labour Inspectorate took action against him after receiving a complaint from four Singaporean women hired by Kapur for pruning work while they were visiting the Bay of Plenty on a working holiday.

“The employees were young and vulnerable. It was their first time in New Zealand, and Mr Kapur’s actions not only undermined the worker’s rights, but also New Zealand’s international reputation,” says Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager, Natalie Gardiner.

Furthermore, Kapur had set up a sham business, Sunrise Hort Limited, in another person’s name to try and avoid personal responsibility for the exploitation.

“When approached by the Labour Inspector, Mr Kapur claimed that he was merely an employee at Sunrise Hort, and not responsible for the breaches. Evidence provided by the employees, who had since returned to Singapore, proved this was not the case,” says Gardiner.

The ERA found Kapur personally responsible for the breaches and ordered him to pay $18,000 in penalties ($12,000 of which will go to the workers) and $5,451 in costs incurred by the Labour Inspectorate during the investigation.

Kapur has also been ordered by the ERA to pay $2,143 to the four workers in outstanding wages and holiday pay.

“Individuals cannot hide behind company names to get away with exploitation, nor can they blatantly lie about an employment relationship, as was the case with Mr Kapur.”

Kapur was well known in the Bay of Plenty and associated with at least 16 horticulture companies. He has previously been investigated by government authorities and banned from managing companies.

The ERA heard that Mohinder Singh, the director of Joba Orchard, had never heard of Sunrise Hort Limited but was acquainted with Kapur.

Kapur introduced him to Dinesh Sharma who was the director of Danish Horticulture Limited, whom Joba Orchard contracted for pruning work.

The ERA also heard that Kapur and Sharma coerced another vulnerable individual into setting up the sham Sunrise Hort business, to avoid legal responsibility for the exploited workers.

Read more stories of migrants’ exploitation here: