New Zealand Law Society - Wages deducted after tourists gave negative feedback

Wages deducted after tourists gave negative feedback

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Alps Travel, a South Island-based tour company primarily aimed at tourists from China, has been ordered to pay $75,000 in penalties and more than $35,000 in arrears after a Labour Inspectorate investigation found serious breaches of employment law.

“Employees were working very long hours while being paid a daily rate, regardless of how many hours they worked,” says Labour Inspectorate regional manager Jeanie Borsboom.

“This meant they were not being paid minimum wage, and they were also left without holiday pay.

“This employer also failed to keep accurate time, wage, holiday or leave records, and made unlawful deductions from their employees to discipline them for things like bus damage or negative customer feedback – all completely unacceptable under New Zealand employment law.”

The Inspectorate says Alps Travel initially sought to avoid providing minimum standards by saying their workers were contractors, but did acknowledge during the investigation this was not the case, and minimum standards should be applied.

“Employers in this industry should note that log books will not fully meet their record-keeping obligations, that they cannot contract out of providing employees with their entitlements, and that daily rates will not necessarily meet the minimum wage,” says Ms Borsboom.

Alps Travel has had its Transport Service Licence for both passenger and rental services revoked by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

The general manager of Alps Travel’s Queenstown branch was recently found guilty of fraud at the Christchurch District Court, in relation to aiding and abetting an Alps driver to dishonestly use another driver’s licence in an attempt to show that he was correctly licensed.