Collapsed labour hire firm ELE was in financial trouble months before it went into receivership – but continued to recruit and bring in migrant workers from overseas.
In a statement the Deloitte receivers confirmed they were called in mid-2023 to review a request for funds. It wasn’t until December 20 that they were called in as receivers after attempts to secure additional funding failed.
Among the nearly 1000 workers affected by the collapse of ELE were hundreds of Filipino workers, a number of who gathered today outside Deloitte’s offices in Christchurch and Auckland, and the Philippine embassy in Wellington.
Some had arrived as recently as August, weeks after the receivers were first called in to take a look at the company’s finances.
The Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Kira Azucena said the situation does not paint a good picture.
“We have received reports that even in the run up to the receivership they were still very actively recruiting migrant workers knowing they were no longer on a very stable financial platform. It is to some extent irresponsible.”
One of the key issues the ambassador plans to discuss at her next meeting with immigration officials is making sure New Zealand companies that are accredited to hire migrant workers are in good financial standing.
“If there is a real possibility that the company could close, then that should somehow regulate the pace of recruitment of employees, especially those coming from other countries.”
She said the impact this has had on Filipino workers is concerning and is something Philippine officials are looking at closely.
“I know that this is the first time that such a thing has happened in this scale, so it can not be ignored, it has to be addressed. We do intend to have a good conversation about this…and we’ll use this opportunity to further improve our relationship in terms of migrant workers here in New Zealand.”
Immigration minister Erica Stanford was unavailable to be interviewed, but in a statement said she’s been keeping up-to-date with the situation.
“I have also requested briefings and advice from officials on possible options to further tighten policy settings”
Deloitte receiver David Webb said it is working with affected employees and is working on connecting them with potential employers and the relevant support agencies.
“The other main priority of the receivers has been to provide clarity to employees and they have been seeking to establish, from the group’s records, the amounts owing to employees for their entitlements.”
In a post on LinkedIn ELE director Brent Mulholland said he sold his family home in November in an effort to keep the company afloat.
He said he’d “put everything on the line to be build a great business”.
“I have sold all my assets, including commercial property and even my family home.”
Property records show a single sale under his name – his Tauranga home valued at $2.7m. This was sold in early November – six weeks before the company went into receivership.
There are two other properties listed under Mulholland’s name.