Community Leader Pays Worker $2.50 an hour

Threatens workers with deportation if they complain

Case Launched against Exploitation and Deliberate Breaches of Employment Laws

Over the next weeks, the Migrant Workers Association will bring you a series on ongoing cases of exploitation that readers could assist us with.

Tejinder* and Varneet* (names are changed to protect them) were employed at the Waihi Supermarket by Ravi Singh Samra. Both workers claim they worked thousands of unpaid hours and received no holidays pay or other minimum legal entitlements. The allege that when they raised their concerns their employer threatened them with deportation.

Samra claims to be a respected leader in the community and is currently the secretary of the NZ Sikh Society in Hamilton.

The Migrant Workers Association is representing these two workers, and has engaged One Union to file a case against Samra on behalf of Tejinder and Varneet. The charges filed in the Employment Relations Authority accuse Samra of deliberate and calculated gross exploitation of these two workers for years. One Union claims wage arrears, compensation and legal penalties against Samra and his company Samara & Sons Ltd.

The workers say they received no annual holiday, and were not paid public holiday penal rates. They were forced to work excessively long hours that were either unpaid, or paid less than the minimum wage. Both workers felt completely trapped. They were terrified by Samra’s threats of deportation and wanted to believe Samra when he said he would eventually provide a full-time job and help them with getting a permanent visa.

Ravi Singh Samra

Ravi Singh Samra
Owner of Waihi Supermarket and Secretary NZ Sikh Society, Hamilton

Tejinder’s Story

Tejinder was employed by Samra for 20 hours a week in November 2016. He says he was provided no employment agreement, and was not paid his promised wages. Tejinder says Samra justified not paying him on a verbal promise he would eventually offer him paid employment and support him for a visa. If this is true, Samra’s actions are illegal.

The following year Samra gave Tejinder an employment agreement for $15.75 an hour (the minimum wage at the time). Tejinder says Samra required him to continue to work 20 hours a week for a flat rate of $180. That is $9 an hour.

After Tejinder kept saying this was not fair, Samra then promised Tejinder a full-time employment agreement, on the provision that he increase his working hours immediately. Deceived in this way, Tejinder claims he began working 50 to 60 hours a week, still for the flat rate of $180 a week. This means Tejinder was paid $3.00 to $3.60 an hour.

After two and half years of suffering from mental and physical fatigue and without money, Tejinder requested he be paid correctly or he would leave. He says Samra threatened that if he left the job, he would have his visa cancelled and have him deported. Tejinder was scared and stayed.

Six months later Tejinder says he turned up for work at the Waihi Supermarket to find the store locked up and closed. Samra refused all communications with Tejinder.  In desperation, he travelled to Hamilton and approached Samra at the Sikh Temple, where Samra is the secretary. Tejinder says Samra ran away.

Varneet’s Story

Varneet was employed by Samra in August 2017 at $15 an hour for 20 hours a week. Instead he was forced to work 60 hours per week at the flat rate of $180. This meant he was paid $3.00 per hour. As his visa was attached to his employment at the Waihi Supermarket, Varneet felt he had no choice but to stay.

The situation only worsened from there. After working for a year for 60 hours a week for $180 Varneet was appointed assistant manager with a new contract for $37,500 pa for working 35-40 hours a week. Instead, Varneet was forced to work 70 hours over 7 days, still at the flat rate of $180 per week. This meant Varneet was paid for little more than $2.50 an hour.

This all ended for Varneet in November in 2018 that same way it did for Tejinder, finding and the Waihi Supermarket closed. Samra  did not inform either worker that their jobs had been terminated.

As Varneet’s visa was attached to his working at the Waihi Supermarket, he was desperate to maintain the validity of his stay in New Zealand and continue in Samra’s employment. Varneet says Samra made him work in his other businesses. When Varneet raised his concerns about his visa breaches Samra threatened to get his visa cancelled and have him deported.

We will get both of these workers the justice they deserve. Samra has repeatedly avoided efforts from the Migrant Workers Association or One Union to contact him. Samra claims to not have received emails, and then claims to be out of New Zealand even though is seen him at sports tournaments and driving his vehicle around Hamilton.

Can you help?

Spread the word

It’s important we in the community don’t let unscrupulous people exploit other people and our country and we all do something about it. Please share this article with others.

Report whereabouts

if anyone knows the whereabouts of Ravi Singh Samra or know more about this case (or other similar activities by Samra) please contact us: help@migrantworkers.org.nz or support@oneunion.org.nz (all contacts are confidential)

It’s very powerful for readers to express their thoughts direct to the employer. Send your emails to us and we will publish them and forward them to Mr Samra. By taking these actions we will make exploiters accountable to our community and stop this behaviour.

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