EXPLOITATION IN PIOPIO – ANGRY LOCALS TAKE REVENGE? LOCAL DRIVES TRACTOR INTO SUPERETTE

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At 5am last Saturday a mystery driver rammed a tractor into a shop that the locals accuse of exploiting migrant workers. 

This is a story of several hard-working people who came to New Zealand in search of a better life. Instead, their dreams were shattered in the tiny township of Pio Pio (just south of Te Kuiti in King Country). But this time the locals are stepping up to end this mistreatment. 

It all started with a victim we call Allan*. He was employed at the Piopio Superette by Avinash Mudaliar and his wife Bidya. Like thousands of migrants in this country, he was forced to give cash back to his employer to keep his job and remain in New Zealand. Under immigration visa rules, Allan was contracted for $25.50 an hour. But what is becoming a new norm in arrangements like this, he was required to return everything above the minimum wage back to his employers.

The evidence is undeniable. We have audio recordings where the Mudaliars directly implicate themselves. In one, Bidya demands Allan to pay money back, saying “otherwise you won’t get paid”. In another recording, Avinash instructs Allan that this money is required every week, otherwise he won’t get his next pay-check. 

If that was not enough, the Mudaliars sent texts each week stipulating how much money Allan was to pay them. Bidya claimed that giving money back was part of the “deal” that they and Allan had entered into. Of course, there was no deal, merely a powerful party forcing its will on a powerless party. There is no shortage of evidence, just a lack of justice.

Allan had no choice but to comply as his visa was attached to the job at the Piopio Superette. If he lost his job, he would face deportation. Over time Allan became increasingly resistant to these extortionist demands. His growing courage drew the anger of Avinash, and Allan was dismissed for “serious misconduct”. Apparently he left a pie warmer on. Allan was hand-delivered his immediate dismissal notice by a relative of the employer while he was at home. Allan was banned from his workplace and has not allowed to step inside since. 

This was an egregious act to get rid of a victim who started to stand up for himself. We claim that in just seven months the Mudaliars extorted over $4,000 from Allan. 

One Union have filed a Personal Grievance case to get Allan’s money returned. We are also seeking compensation. The Mudaliars deny the allegations. However since we agreed to help Allan, we have been contacted by locals and former employees with their own stories of mistreatment by the Mudaliars. Apparently this has been going on for years. 

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One long term resident told us that a worker of the Superette would visit her home to make calls to relatives back in India. This victim left New Zealand mentally broken and financially destitute. In our union work e come across this situation too many times. The local say that there has always been a high turnover of staff who have been many victims of exploitation. 

Another former worker who had to return to India tells us that over the course of nearly two years working for the Mudaliar’s he was paid $9 an hour, later raised to $11 an hour,  working up to 70 hours a week doing shifts of 16 hours.  There were no chairs in the store and the worker says the workers would have to stand for the entirety of their shift. He says he was never paid more than $600 in any week even after working 70 hours. We are taking his case now too. 

Stories like this are just the tip of the iceberg. There are more former workers of the Mudaliars with similar stories of exploitation who are afraid to come forward.  But something  inspiring is happening. Since we got involved, the locals have stepped up to support the workers. The local newspaper King Country News is following this story up. Good on them. Real news still happens, even if it’s only in small towns. 

Locals in Piopio have been going into the store to give the Mudaliar’s a piece of their mind about their exploitation. Apparently the employer has made a complaint to the police about their treatment. Wouldn’t it be nice if the police were there to arrest exploiters for criminal theft, rather than people who call an exploiter out. The Mudaliars have threatened to sue me for defamation. Telling the truth is something exploiters aren’t used to. They think it’s a crime. Beyond irony. 

Police are investigating and trying to find out who drove the tractor into the store. The locals say the community has closed ranks. Nobody is saying a thing. We are told the superette has lost a lot of trade. As the locals find out more of what is going on, they are mobilising in support of the workers and against exploitation.

Workplace abuse has become too commonplace in New Zealand. But communities coming together to confront exploitation will end it.  Pio Pio sets an example for us. It’s a great start. 

………………………………..

 

Matt McCarten is the director of UTU for Workers Campaign. If you know anyone who is being abused or exploited contact me at Justice@utu.org.nz  

*name has been changed to protect the worker.

 

48 COMMENTS

  1. Is there a system for giving all new immigrant workers such as these, information and guidance, in their own language, about their rights in this country?
    Are spot inspections/visits made to these businesses to check on the employers?
    I suppose I would be accused of racism if I were to suggest that this problem seems common among immigrant employers screwing their own people, but we do hear about it so often.

    • RosieLee- Yes, you must not say that Indian employers have a reputation for bullying and exploiting their workers. You would be unlikely to say this about professionally qualified Indians such as medical doctors providing an essential health service, because as far as I know, they do not have this reputation, and nor do Sri Lankan’s, because they don’t either. My now-retired gynaecologist was an excellent Sri Lankan, who retreated from private obstetrical practice because of the politics of the midwife persons. I know this, because he told me so. My closest friend in another time and place was an Indian health professional.

      The immigrant bullies are a different breed of person altogether. It is to New Zealand’s shame that we enable them to exploit others. Not all are Indian, some are Chinese. I suppose that’s me being racist too.
      I have nearby Indian neighbours who disturb the peace of our quiet neighbourhood with raised voices and shouting which I can hear from within my home. I have considered contacting Oranga Tamariki about their shouting at their small son. Dad is a chef, and he drives a big black SUV, and I think him fairly thick and overbearing towards me, and wonder if I am now becoming racist too, but divide and rule is the contemporary global modus operandi, so hats off to the people of Piopio bucking the trend. They raise us all up and help exploited workers when doing so, which is a double whammy seemingly beyond the ability of the pen pushers in downtown Wellington.

      • A colleague’s son was working for the Labour Dept ( or whatever it’s called now) , under a bossy Indian manager who apparently tells her staff that that’s ‘ just the way she is’ . Son’s feeling bullied, and one reason’s working until 8 pm or 9 pm at night, just to fulfil his KPI’s – one of the fiendish torture methods used to keep public servants subdued. It could be a cultural thingie, rather than racist.

        Workers say that our local NWS keeps the daily kpi’s charted on a wall out the back – even though there are limited opportunities for a checkout operator to loiter on the job – standing, as they all do, for hours on end, to encourage varicose veins and sore backs – and generate work for uncle-the-chiropractor.

      • Indeed. They come in all races and ethnicities including WASPS, and often the exploitation transcends the tenets of their religions.
        Where there’s money to be made, there’s no end to what SOME people will do.

        Lil ‘ole Nu Zull that punches above its weight has done VERY little to fight exploitation.
        The Labour Expectorant has only recently begun to make an effort because it started to get a bit embarrassing.
        It’s a problem of NZ’s own making because of past inaction. I’ve absolutely no sympathy for MBIE or any of its cost centres. It’s working as designed and more fool Labour for not having woken up to it all.
        Nowhere have I ever seen the NZ government or any of its agencies alert potential immigrants (on whatever Visa type) to scammers and exploiters. Instead they’ve enabled it through ridiculous policy and then been content to blame the victims.
        It’ll bite us in the bum, and so it should.
        And if I do move to Piopio, I’ll see if I can arrange for Stu Lumsden to be allowed free transport in a tractor’s bucket. I’d even see if he could be allowed to wear a stab-proof vest.

    • Rosie Lee, the people are complaining and it is falling on deaf ears.

      “Nearly half of the 11,000 migrant exploitation and fraud tipoffs sent to Immigration New Zealand were not investigated in the six years to 2017.

      From the 5700 cases that were investigated, less than 150 prosecutions were made.

      Almost 500 cases, some four-years-old, remained open, according to figures released under the Official Information Act.”

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/100860602/immigration-nz-has-to-pick-and-choose-cases-to-investigate

      if they are prosecuted the penalties are pathetic to encourage the practise to continue.

      https://www.nbr.co.nz/story/auckland-construction-company-fined-2000-using-illegal-migrant-labour

      Even if anybody is deported, then they come back under another alias.

      https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/auckland-building-boss-charged-with-fraud-after-investigation-into-illegal-labour/GXAPRJOGDSR2LVQDS4ZZ66JRUI/

  2. I respect the union representing these exploited people and feel for the workers but surely we should be asking how on earth a work visa can be issued to someone so that they can stack shelves in a superette in the back of beyond? Stopping the effective importation of low skilled indentured slaves from India will do more to force wages up than any fiddling at the edges Labour might consider.

    Mass migration across the globe has done more to depress wages and hold back the working class than anything else. It needs to stop – completely. The ponsonby elite will say it’s racist but they’re only really interested in not having to pay too much for their lattes and house cleaning.

    • Tim – Bill English may have a tractor he no longer uses to take you there. I seem to recall pictures of him and at least one other politician riding tractors up the front steps of Parliament – if it’s good enough for Parliament, then it’s a legitimate form of protest – don’t take your foot off the clutch, just in case, and good luck.

      • Yeah well that was a publicity stunt by a short arsed Machiavellian confederate.
        The natzo Dipton Dribbler is a traitor. He’s a part of the greater problem albeit a short one.

        • Countryboy – English “part of the greater problem” ? Seems to me that English was a creator of the problem, writing off young Kiwi men as useless druggies and layabouts to justify bringing in cheap off -shore workers to keep NewZealand a low wage economy and the poor as poor as poss.

          • ” writing off young Kiwi men as useless druggies and layabouts”
            I will NEVER get over Blinglish saying that. As a mother parent who busted her guts to educate my offspring and ensure they were not just employable but contributing members of our society such a comment is inexcusably insulting to all hard working NZ families.

            • Shona. Ditto. I will never forgive Bill English for that.
              I worked with young guys – loved the lot, still worry about some of them years later.

              But a dopey wee guy from a privileged background who put his own sons through the private school system, having the gall to airily criticise others, can vamoose. Electioneered on his teenage acne, saying that he knew what it was like to feel different from others – a massive social disconnect. All this at a time when young males in his target group were killing themselves at unprecedented rates, so let’s kick them while they’re down.Not ok.

      • The other one was Shane Adern, MP for King Country.
        And yes, he was distantly related to our current PM.

  3. I for one, are disgusted our country has come to this.

    In particular the government and ministry have allowed this situation to persist for nearly a decade now. It’s so rampant that it’s the new norm.

    When the million new migrants get residency they also find out there are few ‘real jobs’ at minimum wages. They go on benefits, get more mentally ill, don’t thrive. A friend from a soviet state once told me a saying about their country…

    “We pretend to work and our employers pretend to pay us.”

    $8 cash is what you get paid in South Auckland factories. You make your income up by going on benefits.

    Most workers in NZ make money in various ways as wages are not enough and in spite of what the media are braying about, the jobs available are absolute shit and nobody normal want them as they work out close to being unemployed but with less hassle.

    Therefore to make money migrants with partners for cash/dowrys https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/high-court-rules-nz-man-doesnt-have-to-pay-212000-dowry-to-ex-wife/LAYMR4OGA66NW2K7KWYA64WO5Q/?&ref=recommended or fake jobs etc. Even selling intimate videos to porn sites to make cash. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/revenge-porn-christchurch-police-wont-charge-man-who-uploaded-sex-tape-without-consent-cannot-prove-harm-to-victim/3YCRIFDUTT5V6YJUZSMWYLQJYI/

    Sorry not ok with this being the new normal for NZ.

    Government need to close the borders and then sort out the mess, deport the migrant exploiters and since that will take decades, don’t put fuel on the fire by continuing the Ponzi to enable the exploiters to bring in more workers and ‘students’.

    You should not be able to bring in migrants for jobs if you are not even a NZ citizen or not lived in NZ for very long!

    Kiwis exploiter employers are getting in on the act to compete with the new normal and just subcontract our all their labour to middlemen. When the shit hits the fan, they deny they knew that their subcontractors were using cash/illegal labour sources.

    Then there are the new scams of trying to get people to work for next to nothing as ‘interns’ for profitable businesses or set up a cool ‘start up’ to disguise who is benefiting from the work and thus have an excuse to underpay people or have them working for next to nothing.

    Such is the state of NZ that Lollipop workers in OZ can earn more than CEO’s in NZ. OZ pays NZ IT graduates over $200k while NZ celebrates the unpaid internment ships for our IT workers. Only 2% of NZ workers are earning an OZ graduate level salary in some cases and the Labour government can’t wait to tax the meagre 2% high earners in NZ for ‘earning too much’. You know like those awful doctors that spend 10 – 15 years studying to serve the community. Sarcasm.

  4. “Police are investigating and trying to find out who drove the tractor into the store” –

    another sad woke NZ story where the police/SFO/IRD/Labour inspectorate avoid arresting those carrying out rampant exploitation in NZ but you can be sure that the awful vigilante tractor driver will be in court in 48 hours!

    Serial exploiting people is ok in NZ, but attack an exploiters property, or protest like in Waiheke, and you can be sure that the police will be there in droves to uphold the law and probably have SIS surveillance on the perpetrators. Meanwhile socially and economically harmful rampant human exploitation in NZ, accelerates in plain sight!

    • Save NZ – First of all, the cops have to prove who was driving that tractor, even if the whole town knows who owns it. It could have been somebody’s dear old demented mum. We don’t persecute old grandmothers in this country, that’s more the territory of Hollywood Harry and the cable television actress.

      Secondly, right now, in bitterly cold pouring rain, there’s an Indian Chorus contractor or sub- contractor laying cable at the bottom of my driveway. He is the father of a baby less than one month old. I told him that he needs to keep himself well for that baby, because he does.

      Only the deaf and blind don’t know that Chorus has a bad track record in the way that it treats its workers. Some of its management appear to be ex Telecom and Spark personnel, who should have a decent work ethos, even if they do locate their call centres off-shore, using foreigners speaking English as a second language, who, when they do eventually answer the telephone, may also do so to the sound of a baby crying in the background.

      I think It was a former Telecom CE who blithely announced that she liked to keep people confused, so that they don’t know what’s going on. The poor Chorus chappie out there in the downpour, is unable to answer questions about future liability resulting from their work, and nor is it fair to expect him to, when he’s not the person over-paid to make or implement unconscionable policy.

      Time and again, when lines company workers and their ilk were out around the lamp posts at night time, I asked them if they were being paid, and the answers were, “ I hope so,” or, “ I don’t know”. That’s the Employment Contacts Act workforce, and there’s some mighty big forces to be reckoned with now.

    • “Anarcho-tyranny is a concept, where the state is argued to be more interested in controlling citizens so that they do not oppose the managerial class (tyranny) rather than controlling real criminals (causing anarchy). Laws are argued to be enforced only selectively, depending on what is perceived to be beneficial for the ruling elite.”

  5. Is anyone surprised? Jacinda rewards exploitation of the weak. She gave scumlord oppressors massive tax free capital gain following what should have been a hit for these leeches. The more houses theses parasites had, the richer she made them. NZ rewards trechery and greed, its the new normal.

    • It’s been the “new normal” for many years, the fact there is no capital gains tax , correctly lies with the Ardern government as everything you said lay with the Key government. The issue is the the baying of blood by the uber greedy to any politician enforcing a CGT on them. I remember this so very well as the right wing media had a field day.
      Then there is the shrill from Collins(see link below)saying in fact Ardern has broken her promise on CGT, which renders either you or her wrong. Perhaps you may want to change your’s from Ex Labour to pro Labour…

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/300305269/new-zealands-new-39-capital-gains-tax-its-pretty-harsh

  6. I suspect another reason locals despise this store may be due to high prices, one can find recurring reviews as such with a Google search of the store. Typical traits of these greedy, exploitative personalities.

  7. THEFT. EXTORTION. BLACKMAIL.

    These carry heavy penalty’s, why are they not being levelled at this corrupt superette owner and his wife? A lengthy stint inside jail might just be enough to make them reconsider their ways, if not , the same outcome they threatened their worker with : deportation and revoking of their NZ citizenship.

    • Wild Katipo – No. let’s not waste tax payer money imprisoning these rotters. Just revoke their citizenship and kick them right back to where they came from if they can’t abide by our laws.

  8. Imagine all those school bullies who have egotistical (landlord) fathers who are being indoctrinated with the Jacinda advocated kiwi mentality of ‘survival of the richest’. This country is all about crushing the poor to ‘get ahead’. Jacinda has caused this, she made them feel untouchable because she effectively made them untouchable. There is a cloned Orc army of Mark Richardson types roaming around NZ looking for new opportunities to exploit the poor. Where is the anger, where are protests, when do we put a stop to this state funded cruelty?

    • Fuck the propoganda site as a respondent noted…

      “It’s probably not wise to look at your data. June to June. Last June nz just came out of a lockdown and LVRS and interest rates were crashed. Listings plummeted and demand went wild. You would be better off looking at one to three month data like the HPI and even core logic . Even looking at trademes property insight monthly changes on there estimates. Even the drop off in open homes and less confidence in paying for auctions. With a good serious non bias look at what’s going on in a trend over the last few months to now is price growth is gone and the trend is down. Add to this CCC Certificates and building permits are on fire and we are building.

      WITH A SERIOUS NON BIAS LOOK, why can’t you see your corrupt opinion is Exploited Prey?

      For the truth…nbr.co.nz/opinion/skycity-debacle-offers-morbid-fascination

    • putting things into perspective on ozzie and corruption…

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnMSxXc8dHg

      Seriously Exploited Prey you don’t know the definition of corruption, see below

      2014 August: National Party cabinet minister Judith Collins is forced to resign her portfolios after being involved in a string of scandals. Early in the year she is accused of a conflict of interest after an overseas trip where she appeared to be promoting milk products produced by Oravida – a New Zealand company of which her husband is a director. Later in the year, claims emerge in Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics that Collins had passed on private information about public servants to right-wing attack-blogger Cameron Slater. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters also claims in the same month that Collins had approached him to do a post-2014 election deal with National with Collins as leader.[39]
      September: The National Party used a song similar to a hit by US rapper Eminem in a campaign ad during that year’s election. The song’s publishers filed a lawsuit against National for copyright violation stating they did not give consent for the song to be used in a political ad, a claim which National denies.[40]
      2015 –
      January: National Party MP Mike Sabin resigns from parliament “due to personal issues that were best dealt with outside Parliament”[41] one month after it is revealed that he is under investigation by police for assault.[42]
      May: National cabinet minister Murray McCully is involved in the controversial setting up of a sheep farm in Saudi Arabia in partnership with Saudi businessman Hamood Al-Ali Al-Khalaf, seemingly to negate the risk of Al-Khalaf suing the New Zealand government.[43

    • Lets have a civil war with flour bombs and rolled up newspapers as our swords! If its good enough for the Varisty students, its good enough for us!
      And we all get to home as of a night with a few bumps and bruises and put on the kettle for a nice hot cuppa tea !

      Perfect!

      I’d be in for that sort of civil war!- sounds like fun !

  9. A thing of beauty, Matt. Extremely heartening. The sort of Community spirit we could all take a leaf from.

  10. The elephant in the room is the New Zealand government (irrespective of party, Labour or National) which presides over an economy that wants, encourages and depends upon exploitation of workers, and in particular migrant workers. So it is a bit silly to get incensed about something that is a direct expression of government policy.

      • Yes, we should be concerned about New Zealand government policy.
        My point, which I could have made more clear, is that while the couple in question can and should be held morally responsible for their own actions it is better for us to have a dispassionate debate about government social, economic and immigration policies than to direct anger towards the particular individuals who are behaving more or less as those policies intend that they should.
        Governments throughout the western world are obsessed with maintaining access to the sources of labour which delivered the wealth of their empires, and populist movements are reacting with anger towards the migrant entrepreneurs and workers who provide or access the cheap labour that keep share markets and property values rising exponentially.
        Before getting angry at migrant entrepreneurs, we should be addressing the fundamental causes of these social afflictions and from that point of view the Mudaliars are a symptom rather than a cause of the problem.
        By the way, a tractor (presumably stolen) through the front door of a superette looks more like a tobacco and alcohol ram raid rather than a demonstration of working class solidarity. Which raises another of the problems for which the New Zealand government is responsible – mass state sanctioned drug use, from the trendy wine industry to the extraordinarily lucrative tobacco trade. In their wisdom and by a very narrow margin the voting public decided not to allow cannabis to be added to the list.

        • “Migrant entrepreneurs”? Seriously?
          They are exploiters through and through, and until we start naming and shaming them, and deporting them, the situation will not change.
          The other thing is that WINZ needs to look at the condition whereby the visas are tied to one job and if the exploited workers leave the job, they have to leave NZ. They should at least be able to change jobs if they are genuine.

          • Rosielee – The migrant entrepreneurs were the ones who came from war- torn Europe post WW2. They started niche industries producing handbags, fashion, knitwear, shoes, furniture, specialty foodstuffs, even ski fields.

            If we were to now recruit more Dutch and Poles and Scandinavians and continental Europeans and even Scots, would they then fall into line and start exploiting their fellow men ? This isn’t what they did historically.

            • Previous generations of migrant entrepreneurs came into a very different social and economic environment. Prior to the economic reforms of the fourth Labour government there was a general attitude of respect for working people, and a presumption that any mature worker should be paid a wage sufficient to keep a family.
              That was then. Now the New Zealand government recruits workers and entrepreneurs from societies in which gross exploitation of labour is the norm, with the intention that it should become the norm here as well.
              I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that previous generations of immigrants were largely European. It is more to do with the fact that the colonial regime has given up all pretense of a desire to create or maintain an egalitarian society and now welcomes the most egregious exploiters from anywhere on earth.

        • well aren’t we the straight one?? your arguments to date were awesome Geoff but the suppression of one of the greatest, most useful plant, hemp, is criminal. I won’t go on.

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