Asda threatens legal action against farmer protests
ASDA is threatening legal action ahead of planned protests by Farmers for Action (FFA) at three of its distribution depots tonight.
FFA has widely publicised its intention to stage protests on Wednesday (December 15) and Thursday (December 16) outside Asda distribution depots in Chepstow, Skelmsersdale, in Lancashire and Grangemouth, in Scotland.
The Leeds-based retailer has written to FFA chairman David Handley and other prominent FFA members this morning, via its solicitors, giving them a deadline of midday today to agree to certian conditions.
These include assurances that any protests will not obstruct access to Asda premises, that protestors will not trespass on Asda property and that FFA members will co-operate fully with police and Asda security staff and only protest in locations deemed to be safe.
Asda is also asking that instructions regarding the protst are published on the FFA website and are properly communicated to co-ordinators.
The retailer warns that failure to agree to these undertakings by midday will be seen to imply that FFA ‘intends to participate in unlawful interference with our legitimate business activities’.
“We confirm that it is our intention to apply to court without further notice you for such orders as may be appropriate, which are likely to include orders preventing any unlawful conduct which disrupts the activities of any Asda property,” Asda distribution director Ian Stansfield told Mr Handley in the letter.
Mr Handley remained defiant, however, insisting that he had no intention of agreeing to Asda’s requests and that the protests would go ahead as planned.
“Are we going to reply by 12 o’clock? No. We ain’t stopping tonight. We are going ahead,” he told Farmers Guardian.
He said FFA was already complying with some of the conditions, including working with the police and stating what the protestors intended to do.
Mr Handley said Asda was being targeted because of its role in discounting milk prices. He said it was promoting a four pint carton of milk for £1.25 last week, after Tesco Morissons and Sainsbsury’s had all raised their price for the equivalent product to £1.55.
“They are devaluing the product and everybody knows that if you de-value at point of sale that has ther effetc of dripping down the supply chain,” Mr Handley said.
In his letter, Mr Stansfield said Asda had listened to FFA’s concerns about milk prices and had ‘endeavoured to address those concerns’.
He said it was ‘worth clarifying that we have not recently reduced the prices of milk or entered into short-term promotions’ as suggested attributed to FFA. “Our prices have not in fact altered since July 2010,” he said.
While Asda accepts the process of open dialogue and healthy debate, it ‘could not countenance action which disrupts the legitimate business activities of any Asda property or compromises anybody’s safety’. Experience of past FFA protests showed they were ‘precisely the tactics which FFA intend to employ’, he added..