Gloriavale woman made to work 90 hours a week for no pay

Source: 1News

A woman who was born and raised at Gloriavale claims she was forced to work 90 hours a week.

Serenity Pilgrim left the West Coast commune in 2018, along with her parents and her siblings.

She is now one of six women appearing before the Employment Court, fighting to prove they should have been treated as employees and not volunteers.

Pilgrim said she started working as a five-year-old and eventually did 90-hour weeks.

“As far as I remember, we always had work, I always had jobs. I would have been about 7, maybe 8 when I started working. When you were younger, you had two days a week that you had to go and set the tables after school in the afternoon.

“I started high school when I was 11 or 12 and I was 14 when I started working full time,” said Pilgrim.

The court heard that those who refused to work had food withheld and were threatened with eternal damnation.

“I’d definitely call it brainwashing because right from day one you grow up knowing you don’t have the option to even think about what you want to do.

“I was upset when the Labour Inspectorate reported I was a volunteer doing family work. If I had a choice there was definitely no way I would ever have done what I was made to do,” said Pilgrim.

Gloriavale’s leaders refuted the claims through their lawyer, who claimed the women know what they sign up for.

Phillip Skelton said the women of Gloriavale are not stupid. "They’re not brainwashed, they’re not ignorant, they’re not uneducated."

He said they choose to serve the 600-strong population by cooking, cleaning and washing for no pay.

"They will say that Gloriavale is their home. It’s a wonderful place to live and bring up large families with the support love and caring of their fellow Christian Brethren," said Skelton.

In May 2022, the court ruled that three former members who worked on farms and in factories were employees from the age of six.

Skelton said this case is different, as taking care of one another is not a commercial enterprise.