Morrisons’ chief executive admits ‘we got the balance wrong’ over Portsmouth poppy

Dalton Philips, the chief executive of Morrisons
Dalton Philips, the chief executive of Morrisons
Detail from an exact replica of Lord Nelson's diamond Chelengk jewels. Picture:Andrew Matthews/Press Association

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MORRISONS has decided to relax rules on employees wearing poppy pin badges.

The supermarket’s chief executive Dalton Philips said staff who don’t work in food departments can wear them now, including suspended employee Adam Austin.

As previously reported in The News, Mr Austin, who works at the Morrisons store in Victory Retail Park, Portsmouth, was suspended on Monday after he violated the company’s dress code.

Mr Austin was told to take off the poppy pin badge he wore to work, but after doing so, he put on a Help for Heroes bracelet and refused to remove it.

Mr Austin said he had been wearing the items in tribute to Drummer Lee Rigby, who was murdered in Woolwich last Wednesday.

Mr Philips has received emails from people expressing their concerns about the company’s decision.

In a statement published on Facebook, he said: ‘Thanks for emailing me about the wearing of poppies in Morrisons.

‘And in particular about the one-off incident of Adam Austin being suspended from a store in Portsmouth.

‘I’m really sorry you feel this way and I share your concern.

‘Quite simply we got the balance wrong.

‘Our existing rules on wearing badges are there for a good reason.

‘We make lots of fresh food in store and no customer would want a badge dropping in to their food by mistake.

‘It is a food safety issue. And all supermarkets and restaurants apply the same common sense rules.

‘But we were applying the rules to all colleagues.

‘And that’s not right.

‘So we have changed them. Colleagues not preparing fresh food will now be able to wear a pin badge or bracelet to show their support for registered charities like Help for Heroes.

‘So Adam can return to work and wear his poppy with pride.

‘It’s really important to me that we show our support for our armed forces.

‘They do really hard work on our behalf. They put their lives on the line every day. Drummer Lee Rigby’s murder was abhorrent. I share your outrage at the death of this fine soldier.

‘So we do encourage our colleagues to wear poppies in October and November to remember all members of the armed forces that have died in the service of our country. Last year we helped raise over £2 million to support the Royal British Legion. And that’s why we regularly welcome Help for Heroes fundraisers into our shops.

‘Trust me, at Morrisons we’ll always make sure our armed forces are supported. Thanks again for contacting me.’

The British Legion today said that the supermarket chain’s rules needed to be reviewed.