Union is calling on council to close all parks after two "serious" incidents
A Merton park keeper was told to “go and die” while another was spat at and coughed on for trying to enforce social distancing rules, a union has claimed.
The GMB Union says that two park keepers were the victims of abuse this weekend in Morden Park and, is now calling on Merton Council to close all of its parks.
In the first incident on March 25, the union said a worker was told he and his family should “go and die” as he cordoned off gym equipment in a park before being followed and having racist insults hurled at him.
The following day another member of staff was pushed off her bike, spat at and coughed over, according to the union.
GMB regional organiser, Sheila Berry, said: “We are talking about a couple of really serious incidents but other people have also had abuse thrown at them – words fail me, it is just not acceptable. We are very angry this has happened to two hardworking members of staff.”
Sheila said that she has contacted Merton Council and contractor ID Verde, which is responsible for the borough’s parks but has yet to hear from either.
She said if staff can not be properly protected, parks should be closed.
“We are asking for Merton Council to take it seriously, we have great concerns,” added Sheila.
“I don’t want the parks to be closed, I think it would be a last resort but if they are going to remain open we need to have some sort of strategy to keep staff safe.”
Sheila added that both incidents have since been reported to the police.
As the sun shone over last weekend many people flocked to their local parks.
This was no different in Merton where police had to break up groups of people picnicking and even fishing.
Merton Police wrote on Facebook: “We’ve been told of a lot of people not complying with the guidelines and have today cleared vast areas of our boroughs of people picnicking, fishing and barbecuing.”
And it would seem the ongoing nice weather means people are still out and about.
Today (Tuesday, April 7) the local policing team in Merton’s Ravensbury ward tweeted: “Officers were out and about today on foot and pedal cycles, the parks are still busy, please stay at home, we don’t want to start issuing fines, but if we keep stopping and speaking to the same people we will have no option.”
Merton Council leader, Councillor Stephen Alambritis, and cabinet member for leisure, Councillor Caroline Cooper-Marbiah, have been contacted for a comment, as has ID Verde Merton.
By Tara O'Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
April 7, 2020