‘Darkest day’ for UK nursing as High Court cuts short May 2 strike

‘Talks not courts’: RCN general secretary Pat Cullen outside the High Court in London.

The High Court has upheld a government claim that a nurses’ strike planned for the Bank Holiday weekend is partly unlawful.

The Royal College of Nursing had promised to abide by any decision, meaning that strike action from midnight until 8pm on May 2 has been called off.

So the government that clapped nurses during the Covid-19 crisis has now taken them to court – and took £35k in costs from the RCN – for having the temerity to ask to be paid enough money to live on.

Nurses outside the High Court in London made the point by brandishing placards bearing the question: “Who takes their heroes to court?”

The Tories are already pushing their narrative that nurses are being selfish by denying NHS patients “the service they deserve”.

But the simple fact is that nobody deserves a health service that is on its knees because of constant de-funding by the Tory government that is driving good, qualified nursing staff away in search of work that pays enough for them to survive.

The Tory rhetoric is nothing more than emotional blackmail, which is a form of bullying.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay is already being accused of intimidating his staff. His treatment of nurses indicates a precedent for those accusations.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen made the obvious point in her response to the ruling:

Cullen, who joined nurses outside the court in a demonstration on Thursday morning, said she accepted the ruling but claimed it could rally her members to support further strikes.

She said: “The full weight of government gave ministers this victory over nursing staff. It is the darkest day of this dispute so far – the government taking its own nurses through the courts in bitterness at their simple expectation of a better pay deal.

“Nursing staff will be angered but not crushed by today’s interim order. It may even make them more determined to vote in next month’s reballot for a further six months of action. Nobody wants strikes until Christmas – we should be in the negotiating room, not the courtroom today.”

The High Court hearing was unusual in that the RCN did not send lawyers to represent nurses, saying it did not want to “give credence” to Barclay’s legal action and the trade union legislation on which it was based.

Instead it relied on a witness statement by Ms Cullen – which Mr Justice Linden told the court suggested she had accepted the government’s legal position. He suggested that much of it had been written for a “different audience”.

The RCN is set to re-ballot its members next month, seeking a legal mandate to continue its strike action from June to December.

Will nurses be discouraged by the court ruling – or will they be infuriated by the government’s intransigence and demand redoubled strike action, simply to get a fair rate of pay?

Source: Nurses to cut short strike as court rules second day of action unlawful | Nursing | The Guardian

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