Brutal work conditions inside Gloriavale laid bare in court

Ryan Boswell
Source: 1News

Brutal work conditions inside Gloriavale have been the focus of evidence at the Employment Court in Christchurch.

Rebekah Kempf was born at the commune and left with her family in 2015.

She is the great granddaughter of Gloriavale’s founder, Hopeful Christian, and told the court her work resulted in back pain and frost bite.

“I’d be lifting 20kg crates standing on a stool on a slippery floor in the freezer usually on my own.

“I was always tired. You cannot refuse to do work if you did you'd be confronted by a leader,” said Kempf.

Former member Hannah Harrison said the women would look for efficiencies, once suggesting men’s work shirts did not need to be ironed.

She said they were met with a firm response, "you need to obey and submit and stop being lazy."

The court heard women would process rotting vegetables in an effort to save money, lived on rice and porridge for a week at a time, and were forced to give up sanitary products.

“So I stocked my drawer full because I was told we'd have to go back to using sphagnum moss. This was a saving-money exercise,” said Kempf.

Hannah Harrison said shoes too were a precious commodity, purchased just once a year.

"A number of times I wore shoes that were taped together and that had holes. I ended up with bruises on the soles of my feet," said Harrison.

The hearing to decide if women at Gloriavale are volunteers or employees is continuing.