Migrant exploitation in a liquor store near you

liquor stores

It is estimated that 40 per cent of workers in liquor stores are paid below the minimum wage.

Alcohol activists alarmed by the tide of migrant exploitation cases in liquor stores are demanding an urgent government inquiry.

Community lawyer Grant Hewison, who specialises in liquor licence applications, and a former barrister and Alliance MP Liz Gordon first wrote to Justice Minister Andrew Little and former immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway last October.

They did not receive a response.

But after a fresh wave of stories exposing widespread claims of exploitation at liquor stores the pair have written again, with a call backed by Alcohol Healthwatch director Nicki Jackson and Unite union boss Mike Treen.

The pair say they are worried about a large number of young men pursuing residency via manager’s jobs at bottle stores, which is providing an incentive for owners to expand their number of outlets, “fuelled by unending cheap labour.”

“Our experience is that District Licensing Committees and Inspectorate practically ignore these poor employment practices,” the letter to Little states.

Former employees of Rotorua Bottle-O liquor stores allege they are owed a combined $300,000 in lost wages.

“I gave this guy five years of my life: proper loyalty. I gave him my blood and sweat,” says Bhavdeep ‘Deep’ Singh of his work for Rotorua bottle store owner Charanjit Singh Dhillon.

But now Deep Singh is jobless, without a visa, and pursuing Dhillon in the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) for what he claims is $205,000 of unpaid wages and entitlements.

Two other former employees who worked in Dhillon’s four-strong chain of Bottle-O franchises in Rotorua have also claimed he owes them around $100,000 in unpaid wages and entitlements.

Dhillon denies the three men’s claims, saying he was a good employer.

He claims they’ve invented their story due to sour grapes because they were stealing liquor during the lockdown, and he will defend himself thoroughly at the ERA.


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News category: New Zealand.

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