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Background & Timeline for Employment Court Hearings
Here is an outline of the major events that have occurred since 2015, that have led to the flurry of court cases – in particular the Boys and Girls Employment Cases being heard during 2022:
- Gloriavale partakes in three documentaries (funded by NZ on Air). A World Apart 2014, Life and Death 2015, A woman’s Place 2016. These are not available to watch on Apple TV.
- During these years people started leaving Gloriavale in numbers not seen before. They were upset by the one-sided view of Gloriavale that was shown in these documentaries and a few leavers were interviewed for Sunday, Campbell Live and other print media during April 2015.
- The Police express concerns about what they were hearing in the media and ask the Charities Services to Investigate. Concerns ranged from financial irregularity, enforced marriage, physical and sexual abuse, forced separation of families and a controlling environment.
- After interviewing more than 18 former members the issues widened to include financial practices relating to members’ wages, financial practices set up to facilitate theft/fraud, funds being used for non-charitable purposes. Mismanagement in the form on conflicts of interest management, Coercion to hand over assets to the Trust, those that leave the community do so with no assets, Members of Gloriavale are forced to sign contracts with no informed consent, marriages taking place without consent of both parties, abandonment of members that poses a risk to their well-being, manipulation of members through their belief system, separating family members as a form of punishment, unsafe health and labour practices.
- Charities Services suggested a Joint Agency was required and Police, MSD, Oranga Tamariki, etc were involved to ensure the ongoing care and welfare of the people and especially the children. Charities Services passed some information to the Police to consider allegations of offending.
- Charities Services also requested MBIE (Labour Inspectorate) to look at the issues regarding workplace health and safety, and long working hours. (they were not part of the joint agency)
- Charities Services Investigation report was completed in 2016. It acknowledged the Trust had engaged in patterns of activity that were mentioned in the Act’s definition of serious wrong-doing. Read the report here: https://www.scribd.com/document/344645661/Gloriavale-Charity-Services-Investigation
- However, Charities Services did not give a formal warning to Gloriavale, choosing instead to work with the Trust to become compliant. Under pressure Gloriavale promised to make changes and to them seemed to offer a “high level of cooperation” with the Charities Services. They added three external trustees onto their board. They selected a lawyer, who was known to work for them, a man who owned Mitre Ten and another local businessman.
- Charities Services requested the Labour Inspectorate to look into the allegations of long working hours and health and safety issues.
- In 2017 MBIE (Stu Lumsden) completed a desktop review of the Charities Services interview notes, and did not interview any ex-members. He made the comment in the report “My conclusion, on balance, is that members of the Gloriavale community are not employees. Therefore, whilst some general concerns remain evident, it is recommended that the Labour Inspectorate does not proceed to a full investigation, and that no further action should be taken at this point.” (Read the report here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/1ur5kw51arpqadw/MBIE%20-%20Desktop%20Review%20by%20Stu%20Lumsden%202017.pdf?dl=0)
- The report was buried and no one who left Gloriavale ever knew about this report.
- Over 2017 – 2019, Gloriavale wrote new policies, which leavers followed closely, knowing that Gloriavale had no intention of implanting the changes they promised to the Charities Services. Over the next few years, leavers say things got worse on the ground at Gloriavale (more control than ever). They spoke openly about their concerns and the group that became the Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust recorded the complaints and sent them on to Police and Charities Services across this time period.
- In Dec 2019, On behalf of 35 leavers (representing 79 recent leavers) called for a new Charities Investigation. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/122250979/gloriavale-leavers-calling-for-new-investigation-into-community
- Their request was declined in August 2020 after weighing up a lot of material that had been given to them.
- By now Operations Minneapolis had begun into sexual offending in the commune. (https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/122624445/charities-services-declines-calls-to-reinvestigate-gloriavale)
- In September 2020 lawyers working for leavers filed a Civil Action against Gloriavale, seeking to remove the Trustees. (https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/122862433/gloriavale-leaver-launches-high-court-civil-proceedings-against-leaders) https://www.gloriavaleleavers.org.nz/articles/statement-of-claim-made-public-for-first-time-as-civil-case-taken-against-gloriavale/
- That same week in Sept two men who were current residents of Gloriavale came out of the bush on the condition of anonymity and spoke to News Hub and spoke about their working conditions and life inside Gloriavale. (https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/09/current-gloriavale-members-sneak-out-to-openly-criticise-leaders.html?fbclid=IwAR1yKBwaTH0gX7SNe0PMhMGJVeJ16rUM33N0_6Y1YtOBN9TgeyuoGvoQqwQ)
- Newshub reporter, Michael Morrah, followed up and uncovered the 2017 MBIE report.
- MP Andrew Little orders a review after seeing the critical MBIE report (https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/10/andrew-little-orders-major-review-into-gloriavale-practices-after-seeing-critical-2017-report.html?fbclid=IwAR13r5skA2rekjQJU9SW–1B3OFy_O-gNEW4FkYry1u09sTv8b7hjjDP9Ng)
- Sept 2020 Worksafe went into Gloriavale but insider said they were warned about the upcoming visit and they made attempts to tidy up their practices and ensure everything looked good for the inspectors. (https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/09/worksafe-investigating-gloriavale-over-current-members-claims-of-punishing-work-hours.html?fbclid=IwAR0BtcHe1D90aLz0ZAB_6nET5r0_MYKa2AW641MLedXkUJcD-bQev4xjmn0)
- October 2020 MBIE says it will not open an investigation into Gloriavale, standing by its claims that the workers were not employees and they have no jurisdiction. They invite ex-mebers to come forward to help them reassess. (https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/122948819/no-action-to-be-taken-against-gloriavale-by-labour-inspectorate-as-workers-deemed-volunteers?fbclid=IwAR3Ykc35ndFK4aQtRUm2PCU14QffEK5PPSAgaCtGsBWQFEqyqR6BssAfgwQ)
- The Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust, and ex-members called for a full investigation into Gloriavale’s workplace practices and allegations of exploitation.
- End of 2020 MBIE opens a “Pre-investigation” into the claims. This involved interviews with around 13 leavers. They also interviewed people inside Gloriavale, who were told by leadership to tell the inspectors that they were volunteers and not employees. The issue sat with Crown Law for many months.
- After 9 months, on 23 July 2021, MBIE came back with a decision. They determined that on the balance of probabilities if they were to take Gloriavale to court over this issue, they would not win and so they declined to proceed to a full investigation. MBIE remained convinced that the people at Gloriavale were not employees and because of this they had no jurisdiction. https://www.employment.govt.nz/about/news-and-updates/labour-inspectorate-concludes-inquiry-gloriavale/
- The Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust advocated for the leavers and insisted MBIE was wrong in its analysis and that they had all the classic signs of exploited employees.
- The leavers were upset and made noise in the media. https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/427724/gloriavale-leavers-petition-government-plan-to-protest?fbclid=IwAR1l7J1TQRtMPaxEEGKtK8IORW5onFSpXLhVUhxD4O1b4vsyKWZtuhkRX_A|
- Ex-members and supporters protest outside the Leaders Debate calling for an Independent Investigation and launching a petition: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/122995748/gloriavale-leavers-launch-petition-and-protests-to-get-government-inquiry?fbclid=IwAR2_d-AKhn8K6tS4lAFtr0HezZT1J8D96uMMMZEsnrIyO_svpc1-BYmyzHw
- By Sept 2021 the legal team who brought the Civil Law suit against Gloriavale (Brian Henry, Dennis Gates and Steve Patterson) filed for an urgent hearing in the Employment Court. They requested the court find three young ex-Gloriavale men as employees as employees and not volunteers. The legal team decided to bring the Attorney General into the case as Defendant #1 because they failed to protect the interests of the alleged exploited workers, and Gloriavale entities and leadership team were Defendants #2. (https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/workers-or-volunteers-gloriavale-leavers-take-employment-fight-to-court/6DU3LWLYHZOEZPD7L654ZBPKZI/)
- Hearing ran for two weeks over AVL link (due to Covid) starting 21 Feb 2022 – 4 March 2022.
- Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust calls for a reinvestigation by the Charities Services on the basis of evidence given in the court. This is declined. They say they will wait for the judgement.
- Judge ruled on 10 May 2022 that the three plaintiffs were employees from the age of six years old. They are entitled to compensation. (Read the Judgement Here: https://www.employmentcourt.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Decisions/2022-NZEmpC-77-Courage-Ors-v-Attorney-General-Ors-Judgment.pdf)
- There are two more stages of the case yet to be determined. Stage Two: The judge needs to state who the employers were. Stage Two: The Govt will be in the stand answering why they failed to recognise the employment status of the plaintiffs.
- MBIE recognises that the court ruling applies not just to the three plaintiffs, but to any other young men in s similar situation, either those who have left Gloriavale, or those who still remain.
- Charities Services finally announces an investigation into Gloriavale after the ruling of Chief Judge Inglis in the Courage v Attorney General Employment Court case in May 2022. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/128606746/charities-services-open-new-investigation-into-gloriavales-charitable-status-following-employment-court-decision
- Gloriavale chooses not to appeal the Employment Court ruling.
- June/July/Aug 2022 – Various businesses choose to stop conducting business with Gloriavale under mounting pressure – in particular those associated with the Meal Plant and the Dairy industry. https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/128729583/gloriavale-factory-loses-meat-company-contract-and-a-workers-third-degree-burns-spark-a-worksafe-investigation
- Gloriavale heads to court to seek an application for an injunction which will force Westland Milk to pick up their milk until the case can be heard. In court they claim that no underage workers were used on farms since 2017 (a patently false statement).
- During March 2022, the leavers’ legal team filed a new set of proceedings against the Attorney General and Gloriavale, stating the young ladies who worked at Gloriavale were employees and not volunteers. This case is called Pilgrim v Attorney General. There are six plaintiffs in this case. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/employment-court-grants-another-group-of-ex-gloriavale-members-urgent-hearing/XLC6X53UHQUAV5DOVW3OAAWDGE/
- August 2022 – Gloriavale requested the judge recuse herself from the proceedings, stating that Gloriavale suggested that “a fair-minded lay observer may reasonably apprehend that I might be biased in the second case, having been involved in the first. The judge refuses to stand down from the case. (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/472239/judge-tells-gloriavale-leaders-she-will-not-step-down-from-employment-case)
- August 2022 – Gloriavale applied to the judge to exclude 297 paragraphs of evidence from the plaintiffs and witnesses affidavits, arguing they were either scandalous, hearsay or opinion. Mr Skelton QC, counsel for the second defendants, said the briefs of evidence which had been filed for the plaintiffs presented a dark picture of life in Gloriavale in general and a wide-range of grievances against the second defendants. He submitted that large portions of the evidence had no relevance, or alternatively, very little relevance, to whether or not the plaintiffs were employees of the second defendants. Much of it was scandalous in nature and gave every appearance of having been included to embarrass or prejudice the second defendants.Judge B A Corkill was selected for this job and he found around 90%+ was found to be admissible. Issues of sexual misconduct and anything related to background and power and control were allowed to remain. Read the judgement here: https://www.employmentcourt.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Decisions/2022-NZEmpC-145-Pilgrim-v-Attorney-General-No-6-jud-180822.pdf
- Girls Employment Case starts on 29 Aug 2022, There are 20 witnesses for the prosecution. The Attorney General will stand in the dock to represent the Labour Inspectorate (Defendant One). We are not yet sure who will be witnessing for Gloriavale.