Company makes it right — pays teens

Oamaru Domino's store. PHOTO: JULES CHIN
Oamaru Domino's store. PHOTO: JULES CHIN
Teenage workers at an Oamaru fast-food chain have been battling for months to get owed wages after a franchise owner skipped town.

But good news is finally on the horizon after Domino’s told the Otago Daily Times it would step in and pay the workers.

Domino’s Oamaru employee Scott Hay, 18, who has worked at the store for two years, said it had been "really frustrating" trying to recover the $5000 he was owed in leave entitlements.

He knew of other employees, all school leavers, who were owed upwards of $1000.

In January, staff received an email from Oamaru Domino’s franchisee Joshua Laing, a director of Team Oamaru NZ Ltd, to say the company had ceased trading and Domino’s Pizza Enterprises would take over operation of the store.

The staff were only given 30 minutes’ notice and told they would not be paid for their final shift because Mr Laing "didn’t have the funds".

The ODT was told that Mr Laing was the franchisee for Timaru Domino’s, which also ceased to operate under his company name in January and workers there were also left without leave entitlements.

Since then, Mr Hay had been engaged in a "confusing" back and forth with Mr Laing and Domino’s in an effort to get what he is owed.

"You email them trying to get answers and it’s always the same answer."

Mr Hay said Mr Laing, who has now moved to Australia, and Domino’s "keep throwing responsibility for these problems between each other, which is diminishing the chance of us seeing any of our payouts."

Another Domino’s staff member who was also owed entitlements, had a message from Mr Laing in early May in which he said "Domino’s have kept the money that they owe us from online order sales and purchasing the stock that was instore at takeover".

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) national manager Jeanie Borsboom said the former franchisee had a legal obligation to pay the employees for the leave entitlements owed for the time they were employed.

Ms Borsboom, who is also MBIE compliance and regulatory practice and labour inspectorate, said: "The Domino’s corporate head office or franchisor also has a moral obligation to ensure the workers are paid what they are legally owed, and they should be actively involved in ensuring this occurs."

A Domino’s spokesperson said: "Domino’s has actively encouraged the former business owner to fulfil these entitlements, but acknowledges that the resolution process has taken longer than anticipated.

"As a demonstration of our commitment to doing the right thing, and to alleviate any financial stress on those affected, Domino’s will be providing a goodwill, ex gratia payment to relevant team members.

"We will liaise with these team members directly in the coming days.

"We appreciate the understanding and patience of all involved while we have worked through this challenging and uncommon situation."

Now in his first year at the University of Canterbury, Mr Hay, who is studying a bachelor of commerce, said the $5000 he is owed would go a long way to paying for his course work.

When told that Domino’s were going to make the ex gratia payments to all relevant staff, Mr Hay said it was a "relief".

"That’s awesome ... we don’t have to keep going in circles. I’m happy it’s over."

Efforts to reach Mr Laing by the ODT were unsuccessful.