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Enforcement action has been taken against 18 kiwifruit contractors in the Bay of Plenty following a week-long operation in May by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

The Ministry’s Labour Inspectorate and Immigration New Zealand visited 35 contractors to check their compliance with immigration and employment laws.

Labour Inspectorate General Manager George Mason said MBIE issued 22 Improvement Notices for a total of 39 minimum employment standard breaches and Immigration New Zealand identified eight illegal workers.

“Through a combination of field visits, home and office visits, self-pick orchard and pack-house visits, MBIE found that more than half of the contractors were in breach of their legal requirements” Mr Mason said.

The visits followed an operation in November last year, which identified a Bay of Plenty contractor was seriously breaching employment laws.

“As a result, MBIE decided to launch a broad audit programme of the sector, with an initial focus on the 2014 harvest. The audit programme would be ongoing.

“Seven labour inspectors and six immigration officers were involved in the first phase of the audit programme, with NZ Police assisting on two occasions.

“The level of non-compliance identified during this operation was disappointing, especially the lack of acceptable time records.

“Failure to maintain accurate time, wage and leave records is a key focus for the Labour Inspectorate, with breaches subject to compliance action and potentially penalties too.”

During the audit pamphlets were handed out to more than 300 workers to raise awareness of their entitlements in this industry.

The Ministry encourages anyone in this situation, or who knows of anyone in this situation, to call its contact centre on 0800 20 90 20.