By Lincoln Tan (NZ Herald October 17, 2012)
A company that made a migrant worker pay her own wages in a money-go-round scheme to support her application for New Zealand permanent residency has been ordered to pay more than $74,000 in repayments and penalties.
Chinese national Jingxin Tian lodged a personal grievance claim for unjustifiable dismissal with the Employment Relations Authority after she claimed to have paid South Pacific Limited a total of $33,510 to secure employment, but was sacked on June 13.
She paid an initial $27,000 for the job, but had to make further payments of $6,510 to retain her employment.
Miss Tian also claimed she did not receive a written employment agreement and was owed outstanding wages and holiday pay.
She was dismissed without her knowledge following an accident at work, and was relayed the message by a colleague.
Authority member Anna Fitzgibbon found in her decision yesterday that South Pacific had breached the Wages Protection Act for collecting a payment from Miss Tian in respect of her employment. The company was ordered to repay $33,510, plus a penalty of $10,000, wages of $12,400 and holiday pay of $1,455.20 to Miss Tian.
Ms Fitzgibbon also found South Pacific to have unjustifiably dismissed Miss Tian, for which she was awarded $10,000 in compensation and the company was fined $5000 for breaching its statutory obligations of good faith. Miss Tian was also awarded $1750 in costs.
“It is my finding that … Ms [Catherine] Guo [South Pacific director] was aware of Ms Tian’s desire to obtain an open work visa and eventually permanent residence,” Ms Fitzgibbon said in her decision.
“Ms Guo… took advantage of Ms Tian’s youth and inexperience, immigration status and vulnerability.”
Ms Tian, 22, came to New Zealand in February 2008 and graduated from the UUNZ Institute of Business in 2010.
Ms Tian was told that she would be working for the Asian Business Year Book, which was part of South Pacific, where she was to sell advertising space.
She was told she would be paid $200 a week during a three-month “trial” and a wage increase if things worked out – but was paid $300 fortnightly in cash.
When Ms Tian queried the fact that PAYE was not deducted and paid to IRD, Ms Guo agreed to pay the PAYE but only if Ms Tian reimbursed South Pacific.
“Effectively, Ms Tian was paying South Pacific to keep employing her,” Ms Fitzgibbon said.