Nurses’ strike in England halted after court ruling

  • Written by Nick Triggle and Sophie Hutchinson
  • BBC News

photo caption,

Secretary General of the Royal College of Nurses Pat Cullen with nurses outside the High Court in London

Nurses’ 48-hour strike in England over the weekend will be ended by one day after a High Court judge ruled it partly illegal.

The cascading closure on Royal College of Nursing payroll, set to begin on Sunday, will now end on Monday.

RCN chairman Pat Cullen said this was the dispute’s “darkest day” yet and that the government needed to negotiate.

Downing Street said it was “unfortunate” that the government had taken to court and had tried to avoid it.

The judge ruled that RCN’s six-month mandate to strike would have expired by Tuesday.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay took legal action after NHS employers said the last day of the planned strike had not been covered by the mandate as polls closed on 2 November at midday.

The judge ordered Mr Linden, RCN to pay for the hearing, saying the union had shown “a high degree of unreasonableness”, the outcome was “inevitable” and “instead of grasping the nettles and conceding” they had taken the case to court.

After the session, RCN General Secretary Ms Cullen said: “They are [the government] They won their legal battle today. But what this leads to is that they lose the nursing and they lose the audience.

She criticized Mr Barclay and the government for applauding the nurses only to let the NHS “crumble” and said they should negotiate with the nurses rather than take them to court.

She said it was “with a heavy heart” that the strike could continue in the run-up to Christmas, adding: “If Steve Barclay continues to stay in the tunnel he’s in, we’ll end up on strike in the next six months because the nursing staff won’t back down now.”

Barclay said: “I am very much in favor of the right to industrial action within the law – but the government cannot stand by and let an obviously illegal strike go forward.

“Both the NHS and my team have tried to solve this problem without resorting to legal action.”

The strike was called earlier this month after RCN members rejected an England government offer of a 5% pay rise for 2023-24 and a one-off payment of at least £1,655 for last year’s salary increase, depending on the grade of the employee.

The union announced that its members rejected the offer by 54% to 46%.

The strike will include NHS nurses in emergency departments, intensive care, cancer wards and other wards.

Nurses have already pulled out twice this year — on February 6 and 7 and on January 18 and 19 — but on those dates there were exemptions, so nursing cover has been maintained in critical areas.

The government said the strike, with no national exceptions, would put patients at risk.

Other unions are also consulting members on the wage deal, which is offered to all NHS staff, other than doctors and senior managers.

Shortly after the High Court ruling, the Chartered Physiotherapy Society announced that its members had approved the deal at a 65% to 35% stake.

The deal was backed by the largest health union, Unison, as was the midwives’ union.

But the union representing radiographers refused along with the Royal College of Podiatrists.

All health unions will meet with ministers on Tuesday to reveal whether a majority of staff support the Agenda for Change wage deal.

GMB – one of the largest participating unions – is expected to announce on Friday that its membership has accepted a payment offer from the government.

It would mean that when the GMB meets other health federations to vote on the payment offer, a majority will almost certainly support it.

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