POPPY SELL­ERS TOLD TO LEAVE SHOP­PING CEN­TRE

Hayes & Harlington Gazette - - Front Page - By VICKY MUNRO vicky.munro@reach­plc.com @vick­y_afm

UXBRIDGE res­i­dents are threat­en­ing to boy­cott intu Uxbridge af­ter two vet­eran vol­un­teers sell­ing pop­pies for Re­mem­brance Day were made to leave the shop­ping cen­tre.

John Paul Gaughan, 59, and Vic Emery, 57, served a col­lec­tive to­tal of 50 years in the Army but were “dis­gusted” af­ter be­ing told they did not have per­mis­sion to be there and would need to leave for “pub­lic safety rea­sons” on Satur­day Novem­ber 3.

John and Vic con­tin­ued to sell pop­pies by the main en­trance, ahead of the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War One on Sun­day Novem­ber 11, and were later in­vited to come back in­side, but say they re­fused on prin­ci­ple.

John, who says he wears a poppy all year round, said: “I am ac­tu­ally dis­gusted and I just could not get my head around it.

“I will keep vol­un­teer­ing for the Poppy Ap­peal as long as I still have breath in my lungs be­cause I lost too many friends not to, but I wouldn’t go back to intu. I won’t even shop there.

“I go to a vet­er­ans’ break­fast club and they asked if any­body could vol­un­teer to help is­sue pop­pies so I did as­sume it was all above board and sorted.

“The man­ager told us it was pol­icy, but the ba­sic prin­ci­ple of health and safety as far as I’m con­cerned is a com­mon sense ap­proach and that was not used here.

“We are not re­ally sell­ing any­thing, it’s just a do­na­tion. Plus, it was for a one-off event and a ma­jor an­niver­sary, which we or even our grand­chil­dren might not see again.”

John said he and his fel­low vol­un­teer had been sell­ing pop­pies from 9am un­til about lunchtime when an intu em­ployee asked if they had per­mis­sion to be there and then in­formed them they would have to leave.

He added: “We left and no voices were raised but, of course, the lo­cal pop­u­lace thought it was dis­gust­ing and about an hour later a lady came back out­side and asked us to come back in.

“We re­fused on prin­ci­ple. Even though I pre­fer to stand in­side, I have been in all kinds of in­clement weather and I would stand in driv­ing snow, rain or what­ever and not mind it for this cause.

“If they had taken a mo­ment to think about what we are do­ing and why first, we could have come to a res­o­lu­tion, but I don’t ap­pre­ci­ate them com­ing back an hour later to change their mind without even say­ing sorry.

“I don’t have a vendetta or want any­one to lose their jobs over it. I just think peo­ple need to be bet­ter ed­u­cated about this is­sue. We had some peo­ple ask­ing us when Armistice Day was.”

John’s fel­low vol­un­teer Vic said that intu Uxbridge’s be­hav­iour was “shame­ful” and “should never have hap­pened” given that they both fought for their coun­try.

He added: “I’m a health and safety of­fi­cer my­self and I thought it was very weird.

“Af­ter the pub­lic be­came quite un­happy about it, they did say we could come back in, but by that point we were set­tled where we were.”

In an of­fi­cial state­ment, intu Uxbridge said: “We sup­port and value the role of the Poppy Ap­peal, and ev­ery year we sup­port its vol­un­teers in rais­ing all im­por­tant funds.

“While the vol­un­teers hadn’t no­ti­fied us of their col­lec­tion, which we kindly re­quire all of our char­ity and vol­un­teer or­gan­i­sa­tions to do, we did have con­ver­sa­tions with their team to al­low them to re­main in the cen­tre, but they de­clined to do so.

“We are dis­cussing this with the British Le­gion to en­sure that this sit­u­a­tion doesn’t hap­pen again and that they con­tinue to be wel­comed into the cen­tre.”

Gen­eral man­ager Lau­rie Tay­lor added: “We have never had prob­lems with poppy sell­ers be­fore be­cause pre­vi­ously they have come to speak to us first.

“For all we knew, these could have been rogue sell­ers even though they were wear­ing berets and medals.”

De­spite Vic’s in­sis­tence that there were “no rows”, Mr Tay­lor added: “The gen­tle­men were asked nicely if they would mind go­ing as they did not have per­mis­sion and re­fused.

“They started get­ting funny with us and tak­ing pic­tures of us.

“One of our em­ploy­ees later apol­o­gised but they re­fused to come back in and were quite stub­born.

“In­stead they stayed out­side telling cus­tomers that we kicked them out. A num­ber of peo­ple ac­tu­ally came to us to get our view be­cause they were be­ing quite neg­a­tive out­side and once we ex­plained they un­der­stood.”

The Royal British Le­gion has been con­tacted for com­ment.

PHOTO: SINEAD CROSS

John Paul Gaughan (left) and Vic Emery were asked to leave intu Uxbridge

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