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Wellington cafe to pay cleaner $13,000

A Wellington cafe has been ordered to pay more than $13,000 to a cleaner who stopped showing up to work.

Rami Odisho worked as a cleaner for Petone-based cafe La Bella Italia between August 2008 and August 2011, cleaning the premises at night after it closed, 364 days a year.

But after over-sleeping on August 9, 2011, he failed to do the cleaning, and refused a demand from the personal assistant to La Bella Italia's owner, Antonio Cacace, that he come in that morning and clean while the shop was open.

Mr Odisho received a text message a short time later saying "either you come in now or you send in your resignation" - apparently a reference to a recent conversation where Mr Odisho promised to lift his slipping cleaning standards or quit.

He again refused to go in, saying he would do neither but was "happy to go" if he received all of his holiday pay and a reference letter.

After that day, La Bella Italia made a number of attempts to get Mr Odisho to return to work, including through text messages and emails, but he had "closed his mind to any such initiatives", Employment Relations Authority member Greg Wood said.

Mr Cacace disputed that Mr Odisho - who owned his own cleaning company - was an employee, rather than a contractor, and told the Employment Relations Authority they had an agreement Mr Odisho would not receive holiday pay.

However, the authority ruled he was an employee and as such he was entitled to claim unpaid holiday pay.

Mr Odisho had not been paid for days he had not worked due to sickness, and was also entitled to sick pay.

The authority ordered La Bella Italia to pay Mr Odisho $5768.18 in holiday pay, $317.39 in improperly deducted sick pay, $293.40 in unpaid statutory holiday leave and $7141.90 for statutory holidays he had worked, where he had not been paid time and a half or received a day off in lieu.