Religious sect in pay wrangle

One News (New Zealand), Apr. 20, 2003

A former member of a South Island religious sect is claiming around $80,000 from the community, saying he worked for years there with no pay.

Mark Christian, the 21-year-old grandson of the leader of the Gloriavale Community, is also threatening a civil court case to claim the lost wages.

Christian left Gloriavale, near Greymouth, to make a new life in Christchurch just over two years ago.

He says he wabted to continue schooling but was forced to leave at age 15.

More than 300 people live in the settlement on the edge of Lake Haupiri making a living from the land and businesses, which include exports of spaghnum moss.

“When you turn eighteen in the community pretty much everyone signs a committment to the community…that they’re going to work there for no money, no pay,” says Christian.

He says he worked up to 70 hours a week.

“They’ve made money out of the work I’ve done for them so I think it’s only fair that they should be able to give me some of that money that I’ve made for them.”

His lawyer David Beck says the community is essentially running a trading organisation using slave labour.

Allegations of sex abuse saw the police raid the community in 1993 and its leader Hopeful Christian jailed.

Hopeful Christian says he cannot understand why his grandson has complained to authorities although he says they have had troubles in the past.

He says the community’s way of life is about faith and hard work and what they earn goes into a pool to run the school, their businesses and to feed and house them all.

The Labour Department has already made one visit as it begins to investigate the complaint.

Mark Christian has given them papers including a training agreement signed by Hopeful Christian as employer.

“The Labour Department were presented with a case where the people were not even being paid the minimum wage so it’s the most flagrant breach of the minimum code that you could think of,” says David Beck.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday April 20, 2003.
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