Farm leaders have rounded on Morrisons over the low prices paid to producers for milk, on the same day it emerged the company has been handing out letters threatening legal action to some farmer protesters.
Letters warning protesters that they may be subject to legal proceedings have been given out to some farmers by Morrisons staff at some of the protests staged over the past week.
The letter, which has been shared by at least one protester on Facebook, warns that the company may take trespass action against individuals taking part in any action that disrupts their business activities.
The letter is addressed ‘to whom it may concern’ and is not on Morrisons-headed notepaper. However, a spokeswoman for the company confirmed that the document was an official letter from the company.
“Recent protests have caused inconvenience to customers and disruption to our stores,” said the spokeswoman.
“One customer has already been injured after being caught up in protestor activity. We understand the reasons behind the protests but we insist they take place safely. If the activity continues to endanger customers and colleagues, we will take the necessary steps to ensure their safety.”
It is understood that the letters are not being handed out at all protests, but staff have the option to use them if they feel there is a need.
“Your activities are preventing commercial vehicles and/or customers from obtaining access to and from this site,” says the letter. “This protest is therefore causing significant disruption to the flow of vehicles and consequently, the operation of our sites.
“If you refuse to stop your activities and/or give Morrisons any reason to believe that any further protests will be staged against this company, then we reserve our right to commence court proceedings for an injunction to prevent any further action which disrupts the activities of this or any other Morrison property.
“If proceedings become necessary we may apply to make you and the other perpetrators personally liable for the financial consequences of these protests and the court proceedings which follow.”
Morrisons has found itself feeling the brunt of protester activity over the past two weeks, with many groups staging trolley dashes in it stores and Farmers For Action organising a peaceful protest outside its Cheshire distribution centre last Thursday (30 July).
But despite the emergence of the legal letter, farm leaders have turned up the pressure on the company.
Farmers For Action chairman David Handley said farm leaders had met Morrisons last week, and they had received a reply back saying that the company was not prepared to negotiate anything while being targeted by farmers.
“I think a line has been drawn in the sand and am sure I speak on behalf of the majority of farmers when I say we are not going to be bullied by British retailers,” said Mr Handley in a statement released on Wednesday (5 August).
“All we want is a fair price, a living wage and be able to make a profit from our business, no different than any other corporate business, whether it be British retailing or British food service industry. For Morrisons to start saying that they are not going to be threatened into price increasing [sic] tells me they are not listening to the message. “
The NFU said many dairy farmers were now receiving milk prices far below the cost of production.
This has led to demonstrations and protests within and outside supermarkets across the country.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “While Morrisons recently confirmed it is not accepting any further cost price decreases from their suppliers, I don’t feel that this goes far enough in these desperate times. I wish to see the retailer develop transparent pricing mechanisms, and long term relationships with their suppliers, that show support to the British dairy sector.
“We will be continuing discussions with Morrison’s in the coming weeks and we will keep pushing them to develop support mechanisms that work for them and the industry.
“Now we need to ensure that Morrisons’ performance on dairy delivers for British farmers as they already do on red meat and poultry.”