The Health Secretary Steve Barclay has secured a High Court interim declaration after he “regretfully” took legal action against the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union preventing them from striking on 2 May after a judge ruled it would be unlawful.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said outside the Courts of Justice that they will not strike on 2 May, but they will go ahead with the planned industrial action on 30 April and 1 May.
On Thursday Cullen accused the government of using “bullyish tactics” which is “shocking” and this is the “darkest day” of the pay dispute so far.
She added, “Where do we go from here? Well, of course, our nursing staff will not do anything that isn’t legal.”
Barclay said that NHS employers who represent the National Health Service employers in England contacted the Health Secretary to ask the legality of the 1 May strike action.
Justice Linden said the six month period that strike action could be taken by members of the union had expired on Monday.
He said that he took into account the “interests of the public” and people who will need medical treatment on Tuesday.
Justice Linden added, “In coming to this view, I make clear that I do not regard calling industrial action on Tuesday as a minor or technical breach of the statute.”
Cullen called on Barclay to “get into a negotiating room” and criticised him and the government for leaving the NHS to “crumble.”
“This is no way to treat the nursing staff that he (Barclay) has stood personally and clapped for on steps, and now you slap the court order on them. Shocking,” she said.
“They (the Government) have won their legal battle today. But what this has led to is they have lost nursing and they’ve lost the public.
“They’ve taken the most trusted profession through the courts, by the least trusted people.
“And what a day for nursing. What a day for patients. And what an indictment on this government to do this to the very people that have held this NHS together, not just through the pandemic, but an NHS that has been run into the ground and in crisis, caused by this government.”
Barclay said, “I firmly support the right to take industrial action within the law – but the Government could not stand by and let plainly unlawful strike action go ahead.
“Both the NHS and my team tried to resolve this without resorting to legal action, but unfortunately, following a request from NHS Employers, we took this step with regret to protect nurses by ensuring they are not asked to take part in an unlawful strike.”
The Health Secretary said that they would like to “continue working constructively” with the nursing union and called on them to do “the right thing by patients and agree derogations for their strike action on May 30 and April 1.”
The RCN have rejected the government’s 5% pay offer and Cullen is urging the government to come to the negotiating table.