Christchurch rebuild companies have been caught short-changing workers and failing to complete and keep employment agreements, a direct violation of employment rules.
According to the results of audits carried out by the Labour Inspectorate, which is part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 70 per cent of those audited so far are in breach of employment laws.
Prompted by a surge in complaints about the employment practices of some businesses associated with the Christchurch rebuild, the inspectorate launched its audit programme in May.
Since then 40 Canterbury companies have been audited with 23 completed. Of the 23 completed 16 companies were found to be in breach of employment standards.
Labour Inspectorate southern region manager Steve Watson said the level of non-compliance was "disappointing".
“Many of the breaches relate to incomplete employment agreements, unlawful deductions from wages and insufficient records. As a result we have issued nine improvement notices, six enforceable undertakings, and one case has been referred to the Employment Relations Authority.”
Companies that fail to address the breaches can be issued with a compliance order by the Employment Relations Authority. Failure to follow that can result in an order for penalties to be made.
Watson said the findings highlighted a clear need for ongoing monitoring of employers working in the rebuild. He warned the crackdown would continue.
“The Labour Inspectorate, Immigration New Zealand and WorkSafe New Zealand take employment, health and safety and immigration law breaches seriously and are working proactively to crackdown on non-compliant employers. All three regulatory agencies are also continuing to investigate complaints and take action against breaches of labour-related laws identified outside of the audit programme,” he said.
“But this is not just the job of regulatory agencies. Those commissioning work and head contractors must take responsibility for monitoring compliance with labour and immigration requirements right to the work site... Everyone has a part to play to ensure a safe and fair rebuild.”