Statement issued by Wing Wah Coventry and Ming Moon Wolverhampton
and read by Ian Henery, Ian Henery Solicitors at a conference on 30th August 2017, 10.00 am, Novotel Hotel, Wolverhampton.
I am Ian Henery. My law firm, Ian Henery Solicitors Ltd, is acting on behalf of Wing Wah Coventry and Ming Moon Wolverhampton.
In addition to the media, we have invited here today a number of interested and relevant individuals including representatives from the Embassy of the Slovak Republic and the Embassy of Romania, MPs and Councillors, the police and its partner agencies including Hope for Justice, Salvation Army, Red Cross and the National Crime Agency.
Following allegations of suspected slaves being found at Wing Wah Coventry and Ming Moon Wolverhampton, my clients categorically deny any wrong doing and are fully cooperating with the police to resolve this as a matter of urgency.
Wing Wah Coventry and Ming Moon Wolverhampton are well established brands in the local area, and the reputation of the owners and the staff of these two family run restaurants has been severely damaged by the allegations and associated media coverage.
At around 8.00 am on Tuesday 22nd August, police attended the premises of Wing Wah Coventry and Ming Moon Wolverhampton. Fourteen individuals from the Coventry restaurant and five from the Wolverhampton restaurant were taken by police to a police facility in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Following questioning all 19 were either returned to the respective restaurants or released to walk home, later that day.
None had needed to be rescued and the police have not needed to take anyone to live in special safe houses.
No further action has been taken by the police.
In accordance with the companies’ HR policy, all employees are paid at least the statutory minimum wage and any overtime is paid or taken as holiday in lieu.
All employees have employment contracts covering employment conditions, rights, responsibilities and duties, including hours of work, holiday entitlement and notice period. Most of our staff are employed directly by the company and approach us following a job vacancy notice or word of mouth. We currently have staff from Britain, China, Romania, Slovakia and Portugal, both male and female.
Five Slovakian employees were employed as agency staff at Wing Wah Coventry and were provided by a catering recruitment company.
I can confirm that three of these Slovakians, who were agency staff have now requested to work for Wing Wah directly as they have been very happy working at Wing Wah.
Both Wing Wah Coventry and Ming Moon Wolverhampton offer staff accommodation above the respective restaurants, which any employee is welcome to take advantage of. Wing Wah Coventry offers seven bedroom, two bathroom accommodation which three – four members of staff are currently using on a full time basis. Ming Moon Wolverhampton offers two bedroom one bathroom accommodation with a lounge diner. Three to four members of staff are currently based on the premises on a full time basis. All accommodation is centrally heated. I have personally visited both premises and found them to be perfectly acceptable. Any staff member not wishing to live on site is welcome to make their own arrangements.
I would now like to read a short statement provided by the Director and owner of Wing Wah Coventry – Ms. Pui Ha Lam. Ms. Pui Ha Lam and her family’s experience of the 22nd August 2017 may help you to understand why she is not standing here today and I am.
“My eleven year old son and I were in bed when police forced their way into our living accommodation. There was a lot of noise and the police were shouting at us. We had no idea what was happening. I spoke little English and was completely shocked, my son was crying. I was standing in my nightwear and there was a male police officer in my bedroom. I was embarrassed and humiliated. My husband was in a separate room and my son was screaming for him but my husband was not allowed to come to us.
I was eventually told that the police had a modern slavery warrant. I was completely shocked. I have no idea on what basis this warrant was issued. My husband and I have worked in the hospitality business for over a decade and my son attends a local Coventry junior school. We have a house locally but choose to stay on site a lot of the time for convenience, especially if we have a late or early shift.
My family especially my child were traumatised. My staff and all three members of my family were interviewed as victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. The police assumed that my family were victims too just because we were also living there with our staff. I live and work with my staff and treat them as part of the family and my workers enjoy good friendly relationships with us and each other. They like the fact that I live there with them and there are many different nationalities and we enjoy a good banter.
We spent over five hours at the police facility and were bombarded with questions about human trafficking and modern day slavery. All my staff have now made statements confirming that we worked at the restaurant of our own free will and that all of them work there happily. Eventually we were all driven back to the respective restaurants by the police.
I understand the five Slovakian agency workers were released to walk home.
We have not heard anything from the police since the 22nd August.”
This concludes Ms Lam’s statement.
I will now read an excerpt from Miss Louise Sarah Cooke’s statement. Miss Cooke was working at the Ming Moon on the morning of the police raid on 22nd August 2017.
“I am British and I grew up in Wolverhampton. I am employed by the Ming Moon restaurant as a cleaner and a waitress.
I am very angry about the way the Police have portrayed the Ming Moon. If there was any human trafficking I would not be making this statement. I had to clean up the mess that the police left and was doubly angry that they made work for me because it was not necessary to make such a mess.
The Ming Moon are modern employers who believe in Equality and have employed me even though I have three disabilities. I have Klumpke Syndrome which limits movement in the right side of my body, Erbs Palsy which means my right arm doesn’t grow properly, and Horner Syndrome which means I am practically blind in my right eye, and one is green with the other one blue.
This is my first job and if the Ming Moon had not employed me, I don’t think I would ever have had a job. The Ming Moon supports me with my disabilities and make allowances so that I can work and support my family.”
This concludes Ms Cooke’s statement.
All restaurant employees caught up in this have been shocked and traumatised.
After questioning all 19 individuals were returned to their respective restaurants or released to walk home.
There is absolutely no evidence to substantiate any allegations of modern slavery or human trafficking.
I have statements from all employees involved confirming they all work at the restaurant of their own free will, are paid at least the minimum wage, work reasonable hours with paid over time. Those who live on site do so out of convenience and are free to leave whenever they choose.
There are no slaves or victims that needed rescuing.
One final point, from the media I understand 2 Slovakians had been arrested. These two individuals are not employees of Wing Wah nor Ming Moon.