21 July 2024

Five liquor stores, owner lose licences for exploiting workers

Alcohol Regulatory and Licencing Authority(ARLA)  has cancelled liquor licences for five Canterbury liquor stores owned by Nekita Enterprises Ltd, and director Shereen Singh’s manager’s certificate, following exploitation of workers.

The decision follows investigation by MBIE’s Labour Inspectorate and taking the company to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).

ARLA found that the employment law breaches by Nekita amounted to improper conduct and ruled that the business is unsuitable to hold a liquor licence.

Director Harjit Singh who was found by ARLA to be the “directing mind and will of Nekita” had surrendered his manager’s certificate earlier. However, ARLA noted that if Mr Singh had not surrendered his manager’s certificate, it would have been cancelled.

His wife and business partner, Shereen Singh also had her manager’s certificate cancelled by ARLA.

In December 2020, the ERA ordered Nekita Enterprises, and director Harjit Singh, to pay a combined total of $125,000 in penalties for operating a dual payroll system to avoid paying four employees the minimum wage for all the hours they worked and failing to keep accurate employment records for 59 employees.

The penalties were in addition to $21,390 that Nekita Enterprises had already paid out to those four former employees in outstanding minimum wage and holiday pay entitlements.

The Labour Inspectorate has welcomed the ARLA decision.

Labour Inspectorate retail sector strategy lead, Loua Ward says, “It is unacceptable for some employers to continually and intentionally breach employment law… This ARLA decision has shifted the balance of power as exploiters now risk being put out of business entirely. This decision sends a clear message that businesses that exploit their workers can lose their licences.”

Ms Ward says, “The Labour Inspectorate has been engaging with a group of liquor retail and supply leaders, including Liquorland, Super Liquor, The Bottle-O, DB, Lion and Asahi, to share ideas and information about worker exploitation within the sector, and how to work collectively and individually towards fixing this issue.

“We encourage liquor store workers who have been exploited by unscrupulous employers to come forward and seek advice from the Labour Inspectorate.”

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