Newham street cleaners subjected to ‘physical abuse’

13:45 07 December 2012

A Newham street cleaner says he is concerned for his safety after staff were physically threatened on the job.

A driver with one of Newham Council’s cleansing teams, who asked not to be identified, alleges a colleague was threatened with a knife by a member of the public on Newhaven Lane, Plaistow on Friday (Nov 30) for holding up traffic while they were disposing of a dead fox.

He said: “We’ve had one driver hit across the arm with an iron bar, another bloke was threatened with a knife, it happens all the time.

“One day, something really bad is going to happen to one of us.

“We can’t go to work without our steel toe-capped boots on but then we get threatened with knives.

“The council say they are following the necessary procedures but what can they really do about it?

“Does this mean we’re going to have police escorts just so we can do our jobs? Are these going to be no-go areas?”

The driver claims there have been 12 attacks on staff in the past 12 months - equating to one a month - a figure that both the Council and the Met dispute.

A Newham Council spokesperson said many of the street cleansing staff are trained in how to deal with confrontational situations and a counselling programme is available.

They added: “Incidents reported to us by staff are few, with three cases of physical abuse recorded in the past year.

“Each case is investigated and where perpetrators can be identified the council and the police make every effort to ensure those responsible are brought to justice.

“We would encourage anyone who may witness any such incident, to report it to us or to the police. There is no excuse or justification for attacks on our staff.”

Police say they have no records of the attacks but encourage residents to report incidents.

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