Protesters demand construction sites close in Hackney demonstration

The protest outside Parkhaus. Picture: Fliss Premru

The protest outside Parkhaus. Picture: Fliss Premru - Credit: Archant

Protesters staged a socially-distanced demonstration in Hackney calling for building sites to be closed during the coronavirus lockdown.

Trade unionists from the Hackney Covid-19 Collective spent about an hour on May 5 at the Parkhaus development next to Hackney Downs, waving banners and speaking to construction workers - all at a safe two-metre distance.

This was part of the national #ShutTheSites campaign urging authorities, such as the government or Hackney Council, to close down all nonessential developments and protect the health and safety of workers.

“We obviously don’t want to see people laid off without pay and we are hoping companies use the furlough scheme or wherever possible, pay wages,” said George Binette, who is Labour’s Hackney North and Stoke Newington trade union liaison officer, but who was operating in a personal capacity.

“Construction workers are being left at risk needlessly and adding to the number of people commuting on public transport, or if they are in their cars, congestion on the road.

“It compounds the strain on the NHS which has been stretched to breaking point.”

He highlighted that the Scottish government closed all but essential construction sites, defined as anything necessary for Covid-19-related activities, on April 6.

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Parkhaus, which is on Downs Road, is a mixed-use development with 79 residential units and a 45,000 sq ft ‘commercial hub’, according to Stone Real Estate.

George said there are about 50 people working in close proximity at the site throughout a working day.

There was another protest today (May 7) at Britannia redevelopment project, which includes a new leisure centre, secondary school and new homes near Shoreditch Park.

A Hackney Council spokesperson said: “We are continuing to follow the government’s guidance on construction sites, and work is continuing where it’s safe to do so and social distancing measures can be firmly enforced. We’re committed to ensuring that workers and residents are safe.

“We will continue to review this closely with our contractors and make decisions on a case-by-case basis, subject to further government advice.”

Union Developments, which manages the Parkhaus site, has been contacted for comment.