The chance of a fresh start more than 9000km from home
transformed into a bleak reality of 10-hour work days without
a break, for less than the minimum wage for one Vietnamese
The 30-year-old Dunedin migrant told the Otago Daily
Times she had worked upwards of 70 hours a week for a
Dunedin businessman at less than minimum wage under the
promise of being able to buy the business after five years.
''I worked overtime without holidays and with no bonus
because I believe that in five years he would sell the
business to me,'' the woman, who did not want to be
She was paid $700 a week, which equated to between $8.33 and
$10 an hour, depending on how much she worked.
She started working at the businessman's restaurant in
October 2012, but helped him to open a beauty salon in
December that year.
Her contract at the salon was for 40 hours a week or
''I worked seven days a week from nine in the morning until
nine at night,'' she said.
She left the job in July last year when it became clear she
would never own the business and because of how staff were
One catalyst for her leaving was the firing of a friend, who
was working at the salon without a work visa.
''There was a girl working here illegally in the ... salon
and she was getting paid cash only,'' she said.
''He fired the girl. He fired her because she was a threat to
She also worked in another beauty salon where she was
employed as a part-time employee but worked 40 hours or more
She was paid $270 a week into her bank account and additional
smaller payments in cash.
When she left, she asked for holiday pay and was only given
entitlements for the declared amounts deposited into her
However, she felt lucky to have any holiday pay as other
workers were not given their holiday or sick day
''They don't give you holidays or sick days or anything. You
aren't even allowed a 15-minute break.''
Any days off resulted in pay being docked, she said. She
never reported the abuse as she knew it was illegal to accept
cash payments and she did not want to be implicated in tax
avoidance. Other employees were in the same situation, she
''Everybody wants to find another job where they get paid
right and get sick pay, but for overseas workers it's very
hard to find a job.''
Her story was echoed by another migrant woman who worked for
the same businessman.
She was paid less than the minimum wage without holiday pay
and often was not allowed to take breaks, even though she
worked 10-hour days, she said.
''Sometimes, we didn't get a break in the whole day,'' she
''If we complained, they would cut our hours.''
The woman often felt employers took advantage of her, but she
did not know who to turn to as the Labour Inspectorate could
''It's somehow useless to complain [to the Labour
Inspectorate],'' she said.
''A lot of people are complaining but it's a long wait [for
any action to be taken].''
She said in one case a former co-worker was being paid $7 an
hour and could not seek help as she did not speak English and
was told she would be fired if she complained.