THE private contractor running Sheffield’s controversial tree-felling programme has begun to employ ‘bouncers’ as part of a strategy to manage protesters attempting to block the work.
The move has provoked anger from campaigners who warned any attempt to intimidate or deter them will backfire and only increase the number of people supporting protests.
Amey, the contractor employed by Sheffield Council, insisted the trained door supervisors would only film protesters and their presence was aimed at securing public safety. It has also emerged that an alleged assault by a member of Amey’s staff during a protest in Burngreave on Tuesday has been reported to South Yorkshire Police.
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The council’s 25-year contract with Amey, worth £2bn, aims to improve the quality of the city’s roads and pavements but has run into significant opposition over the planned removal of 6,000 trees as part of the works.
The employment of four security staff emerged via a recruitment advert on the HR GO agency website which has also infuriated campaigners as it accused them of causing damage which they insist has never happened.
The advert, which did not mention Amey by name, included “door supervisors” in its heading and stated: “HRGO Security are looking for 4 SIA professionals with DS (door supervisor) badge or above. The role is to take pictures of damage caused and make a statement around the damage they take pictures off (sic). The damage has been caused by tree protesters.
“Must have good conflict management skills and be calm under pressure.”
Dave Dillner, founder of the Sheffield Trees Action Groups, said: “It’s totally inappropriate, there’s no question about it. If this is an attempt to intimidate or deter us, it’s actually done the opposite. Any attempts to provoke the campaign won’t work. We believe in peaceful, legal protest which we’re going to carry on doing. The more they employ tactics like this, the more our numbers grow.”
Mr Dillner said 25 people had joined the 6,000-strong campaign yesterday alone as news of the employment of ‘bouncers’ began to filter out.
He added that he was furious about the content of the advert and the claim that damage had been caused by protesters.
He said he had written to the HR GO demanding the wording was removed and a public apology or he would take legal action.
The agency last night issued a statement which said: “HR GO Recruitment apologise for any offence caused and can confirm that the advert was withdrawn immediately the advert was brought to senior management attention.”
Amey said the security staff had begun work this week and maintained they were employed to help maintain the safety of everyone present at protests.
“The safety of our employees and the public is our top priority. We have brought in additional personnel to capture photographic and video evidence during our Tree Replacement Programme to ensure that the work is being undertaken safely.”
Sheffield Council, which was previous forced to apologise after organising a pre-dawn operation to remove trees in a bid to avoid protesters, did not respond to a request to comment.
Amey also confirmed one of its staff was being investigated over an alleged assault at a protest. “We can confirm that South Yorkshire Police attended Abbeyfield Road...and spoke to an Amey member of staff following an allegation of assault.”