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Migrant worked 72 hours a week for no pay for New Zealand company



A newly arrived immigrant to New Zealand worked 12-hour days, six days a week and was paid nothing, while the company argued she was a "volunteer".

Haesol Yuk came to New Zealand from South Korea with her family in 2019, as her husband was taking up the position of pastor with the Jesus Aroma Church Trust.

The church trustees – which included Victoria Jeon, AKA Jong Ai Park – were fined NZ$164,000 ($153,477.76) in April, after two vulnerable migrant workers were found to have been exploited.

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Jeon was also the sole director and shareholder of the company, Elev 8, which operated businesses known as Elev 8 Skincare Academy and Beauty Clinic, K-Beauty and Elev 8 Toning Table Centre in commercial premises on Princes St and also Moray Pl, in Dunedin.

Before Yuk and her family arrived in New Zealand on 16 April 2019, Jeon suggested to her to complete a massage course. Despite not having a work visa, Jeon told her she had to work until her husband's visa was approved.

And work she did.

It was alleged the company employed Yuk, who worked every Monday to Saturday between 22 April and 8 June 2019 (42 working days), for 12 hours per day, and was not paid a single dollar for any of her work.

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Her work duties included cleaning and setting-up the premises each morning, washing sheets and towels, and performing massages.

Fast-forward to a just-released decision by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), where it calculated that Yuk was owed arrears of NZ$8920.80 ($8348.44), as well as NZ$318.60 ($298.16) for working on public holidays, and NZ$790.13 ($739.44) for final holiday pay, plus interest.

The decision also noted that the company did not keep records for some of its other employees, while the company argued that Yuk worked as a "volunteer", and was never an employee.

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The matter was investigated in late 2019, after Immigration New Zealand and the Labour Inspectorate received complaints about the company and director.

The Labour Inspector asked both parties to provide a list of company employees employed between May 2017 and January 2020, including supplying employment agreements, wages records, and holiday records for some employees.

It later found that Elev 8 Global breached the Minimum Wage Act, the Holidays Act, and the Employment Relations Act 2000 and was liable for penalties as set out above, while Jeon was liable as a person involved in the breaches.

Penalties were yet to be determined, while costs were reserved.

This article initially appeared on Stuff and is republished here with permission.

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