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