Poor working conditions of Gloriavale women laid bare in court

Forced to slog for long hours and publicly humiliated for small misdemeanours, the working lives of women at Gloriavale have been laid bare at the Employment Court in Christchurch.

Isaac Pilgrim was born and raised at the West Coast commune, and left four years ago.

He said he was upset with the way his wife and daughter were treated.

“There was nothing there that made the leaders answerable so they felt no obligation to be answerable.

“Many time I saw Howard Temple absolutely yelling at girls working, either having the meal late, yelling at the team leader for the food being overcooked,” said Pilgrim.

The court is considering whether Gloriavale women should be treated as employees rather than volunteers in a claim made by six former residents.

“Humiliation and shaming in front of others is part of the driving force to make people want to help and do all this work and get up early and get it done,” said Valor.

Pilgrim said he watched his wife struggle, unable to say no to the work she was made to do.

“She had four days to get 32 uniforms designed, made, sized and fitted. During those days she slept about one hour per day on the rolls of material in the sewing room,” said Pilgrim.

The court heard that breakfast had to be ready by 7.30am and if it wasn’t then women and girls were made to stand before the community and apologise.

Pilgrim said he tried to raise concerns with his father and brother who were leaders but had no luck.

“He refused to talk to me as a father or my brother as a brother about it. They put their leadership hat on and that was it,” said Pilgrim.

Support for Gloriavale arrived by the bus load on Tuesday, with commune members turning up to hear the claim.

During the four-week hearing, lawyer Phillip Skelton said leaders will front up to argue that life at Gloriavale is a life their residents choose.

“They will say that the plaintiffs evidence has been systemically cherry picked and exaggerated to present the darkest possible image of Gloriavale and some of that evidence is just plainly untrue,” said Skelton.

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