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Slave labour probe in central Auckland

Published: 2:20PM Thursday February 02, 2012 Source: ONE News

Asian students working at a central Auckland liquor store have accused their employer of slave labour.

Some of the group claim they have been paid as little as $2 an hour and they say they were kept in work by threats.

The group came to New Zealand to study and were thankful to find part-time jobs.

But they said their thanks turned to fear when their employer allegedly began threatening, abusing and humiliating them.

"He will come and say are you gay, tap on our hip or sometimes try to pull down our pants, and then he'd take off his pants in the shop in front of everybody," one student told ONE News, saying they felt shamed.

"I tried to say something to him once and he said to me I know how to put my foot on the Indian's neck."

The men worked at a convenience store and two liquor shops in central Auckland, including Sky Liquor on Pitt Street.

They claim they were forced to work more than 20 hours a week which is in breach of their student visas.

And they claim their boss threatened them with deportation. One man said he was told by his employer that "if you don't work I'm going to complain and you will not get your work visa, you will not survive here".

They said as well as being underpaid, they were threatened physically and refused holiday pay.

One man claims to have worked for three months straight with only two days off and another alleges his employer threatened to kill him twice.

ONE News went to the site to talk to their employer, Ala'a Yousef Bader, but were told it was the wrong place.

However the owner of the building confirmed Bader runs the store.

Max Whitehead says that in 25 years of employment law he has never heard allegations so serious.

"Treating people like this in New Zealand is slave labour," said Whitehead. "We don't need those sorts of people here."

He said the eight students from India and the Philippines were terrified.

"It's taken me a long time to convince them that they're going to be safe and that they can pursue their rights."

The Labour Department has confirmed to ONE News that it is investigating the allegations.