NZ gurdwara to pay N$104,000 for breaching employment laws – Report

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By Asia Samachar Team | NEW ZEALAND |

An Auckland gurdwara has been ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars for breaching employment laws in a case taken up by two of its employees.

The pair, Harpreet and Jaswinder Singh, had turned to the Employment Relations Authority to take to task their Papatoetoe-based employer Sri Guru Singh Sabha.

The duo claimed that they were employed from October 2017 to May last year, but for the half a year’s work, Harpreet was paid only $2000 in cash and Jaswinder $1000, reports Radio New Zealand (RNZ) website.

It said the authority has found the gurdwara had breached the men’s employment agreements, the Minimum Wage Act and the Holiday Act.

The authority ordered the gurdwara to pay Harpreet over $32,000 and Jaswinder over $34,000 for lost wages and holiday pay, and compensation for humiliation and loss of dignity. The gurdwara was also ordered to pay a $40,000 penalty for breaching employment laws, according to the report.

The report added that the pair, both Indian citizens, are qualified Raagi Jatha – a religious role that many in the Sikh religion describe as similar to a temple priest or preacher.

Aside from performing instruments, singing and delivering prayers in a religious ceremony, they were also involved in teaching children, cleaning the temple, and occasionally preparing and serving food to the congregation.

The employer had promised to provide the pair with accommodation, meals and medical expenses valuing $15,000 per annum in the employment agreement, but the authority found it failed to do so.

“There was no furniture, only two mattresses and a mirror on a wall. There were two windows. One had a curtain and the other had newspapers covering it.

“The room had a leaky roof that leaked water onto Jaswinder’s mattress. Despite complaints being made, the holes in the roof were not fixed, although both men were provided with new mattresses,” the authority’s determination statement, as quoted in the report.

The gurdwara, in turn, had accused the pair of being responsible in the stealing of its holy books and abandoning their employment without providing any notice but the claims were overturned by the authority.

The report further quoted the authority’s statement: “There was clearly an inequality of power. The applicants were both migrant workers from India. They spoke no English and their work visa were tied to the respondent [the temple].

“They were in a particularly vulnerable position not only because their employment was linked to their work visas with the respondent, but also because they were unfamiliar with New Zealand laws and regulations.”

 

RELATED STORY:

Battle brewing between granthi and NZ Sikh body (Asia Samachar, 5 March 2018)

 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Gurdwara Management Committees [GMC] should realize that SEWADARS may be legally equated to them as EMPLOYEES and thus subject of Employment Laws and not volunteers and allowances paid to them not being wages or income [for tax purposes].
    Thus Granthis in Malaysia may be appropriately referred to as employees and subject to minimum wages-EPF-SOCSO dues. Further if they are foreigners then they may also be subject to immigration and Income tax laws.
    GMC of one Gurdwara in K Lumpur dismissed its local Granthi about four decades ago who had been in service for over thirty years without any financial compensation. The Granthi objected and requested for at least RM30K as gratuity for his past services which was rejected by GMC. The Granthi sought my advise and I advised him to refer to Labor Department and also EPF for non contribution but wait to give me opportunity to speak to GMC which he agreed. Then a white knight came in and when I appraised him of of the situation and the adverse impact on the reputation of the Gurdwara and Sikh community he agreed with my views. RESULT HE OFFERED TO PAY FROM HIS OWN POCKET THE GRANTHI RM35K TO SETTLE THE DISPUTE TO WHICH THE GRANTHI AGREED.
    Result is that from thereon the GMC of some Gurdwaras started classifying Granthis and some sewadars as employees and paid wages with contributions to EPF/SOCSO where applicable. However there still could be some GMC who may not be treating their Granthis and/or sewadars as emplyees and may be at risk of contravening local laws.
    As regards foreign parcharaks/ragis/granthis most may be professionals and thus subject to not only Immigration but also Income-Tax laws. Thus it is humbly suggested that this be cleared with the advise of tax experts who include some Sikhs who are among the leading tax experts.
    This is important not only for future but especially when many foreign parcharaks/ragis are coming to Malaysia for the 550th Anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev J. Best to be prevent a problem before is arises.

    Gur Fateh

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