Danny Gelb
Employment Law Advocacy

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Asian Madness


Have you heard of the saying, "If the story does not make sense then it's not true." Regularly I use this theory while thinking on my feet when cross examining a witness from the other side during an hearing.   However, I now have the exception that proves this rule.  I still struggle to believe how these people got themselves into such a mess.   In a way it is an extreme example of Kiwi Saver with the funds being invested by Bernie Madoff.


On a fine, sunny weekday afternoon, prior to the trees being removed from outside my office window, I took a call from a rather distressed Asian man.   This made it somewhat difficult to understand what he was saying.  Eventually I established that Micky was after his final pay.  Calls of this nature come in weekly.  However, most people are nickel and diming and once they find out that I charge for my services they realise that the only one that will benefit from their claim is me.  This is no good for them and no good for my reputation so I usually give them some tips on how to chase the money without me and I never hear from them again.


Language continued to be a communication barrier.  I tried my best to give him the, you can do it yourself speech as it was all getting too hard plus I had a truck load of disciplinary meetings booked for the remainder of the week.  Micky did not want to go away.  I could make out the words, "owes money" and "100".  He just did not get it that my fees would cost more than $100 that he was after.   Turns out I was the one that did not get it.  He was not saying "100", he was saying "100's". He was not saying "Dollars" he was saying "Thousands".  Most final pay claims I take on are between $2,000 to $10,000.  No one has a final pay of hundreds of thousands of dollars, unless of course you are a one in a million stock broker working on Wall St.   So how can this be?  The employer was so inspired by John's KiwiSaver scheme he decided to offer my client a similar scheme with slightly amended rules.


The simple rules of this employer's specific master plan was: -


  1. Set the employee's salary to about 25% more than market value.
  2. Invest 66% of the employees pay in the employers business.
  3. Tell the employee that he will get this amount deducted from his pay upon his contract expiry.
  4. Once the contract expires, then tell the employee that there is no money left to pay him.


Different cultures have customs and traditions that are not exactly Kiwi.  Personally I understand some of the Jewish & Croatian ways as that is the origin of my parents respective families and how I was bought up.   Having worked in tourism in my younger days I got to know a few of what is probably best described as the non positive traits of some cultures.   However, none of my prior life experiences prepared me for what I discovered during this Department of Labour mediation.


Not so long ago (2013), the Government had a restructure and what was known as the Department of Labour what now called the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE).  MBIE now go though receptionists faster than the change of seasons. Try saying, "Welcome to the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, John speaking", a few hundred times a day

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