Employment ruling: Ex-Gloriavale member hopes state investigates further

A former Gloriavale member who won a legal victory after being used as child labour says he hopes state agencies will investigate further.

Daniel Pilgrim. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The Employment Court yesterday found three former members of the reclusive religious sect were effectively employees from the age of six until they left Gloriavale.

They worked regularly and for long hours, under strict control, primarily for the benefit of Gloriavale’s commercial businesses.

Chief Judge Inglis found the work they did between the ages of six and 14 could not be described as “chores” because of the commercial nature of the tasks, they were carried out over an extended period of time and these were “strenuous, difficult and sometimes dangerous”.

Judge Inglis will rule on the question of compensation later.

One of those child employees, Daniel Pilgrim, told Morning Report that it was a “mind-blowing” legal victory.

“On every point we argued, we won. So that was pretty huge.

He said he now hoped the police, the Labour Inspectorate and Oranga Tamariki investigated the Gloriavale community further.

“There have been people telling their stories about being in there for years and never been heard. So a couple of us just got together and decided ‘right, let’s make our story heard.”

Pilgrim said his work involved milking dairy cows, and when younger he worked “down in the swamps” and in factories, doing a mixture of jobs.

He said understood at the time that these were not the sort of jobs expected of other children, but that this was all he had ever known and it was expected in Gloriavale.

Pilgrim said he had always been resolute about pursuing the Gloriavale sect in court.

“I was definitely unsure of the outcome, but I never considered dropping the case,” he said.

Steeling that resolve had been the belief that his experience and that of others he knew had amounted to slavery.

“I thought that before we took it to court, but now the judge has pretty much affirmed that it was slavery,” he said.

“She didn’t say that in those exact words and really we’ve just kicked the door open for numerous cases that are to come.”

He said the consequences of the judgement would include reform of practices within the Gloriaville community.

Gloriavale Christian Community

The Employment Court ruled the work the three did between the ages of six and 14 could not be described as “chores”. Photo: Google Maps

“I think there are going to have to be some huge changes inside, just in the workplace. Because they are unpaid there’s going to be minimum wage come in and there’s going to be annual leave, sick days and maximum working hours. These are things that have never been there and that’s just going to look so different.”

Pilgrim said he did not know how much compensation would be considered reasonable.

“Now I’ve been officially an employee from the age of six and a worked there until I was 20 years old and that was five years full-time, so I really don’t know.”

He said Oranga Tamariki had a duty of care to the children of Gloriavale, to go in and carry out its role to protect children.

“I’m really unsure as to what their role in the whole situation would be but they definitely have got a duty to the children like they have with the children all over New Zealand.”

Pilgrim believed children were still being used for work in Gloriavale, but that practices had changed since he was a child there.

“They’ve changed some things but in a very small way. From the point when I was a child working there until the time I left at the age of 20, there were definitely some things changed, particularly around children working, but I would say they haven’t got into New Zealand standards for the workplace or any stretch of the imagination.

“There’ll be school boys out milking the herds of dairy cows and that sort of thing.”

He said further investigation by Labour Inspectorate and the police into Gloriavale should and would be pursued.

Police said this morning they would be interviewing a significant number of people who had been identified in relation to child employment issues at Gloriavale.

Police are working with partner agencies to decide the next steps, while investigating alleged offending.

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