England nursing strikes: legal challenge latest

RCN challenges legal action over England nursing strike

Tonight (24 April), the UK government has confirmed it will take the RCN to court over planned strike action next week. 

Over the weekend, RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen described the situation as “nakedly political” and “frightening for democracy”.  

Earlier today, the government backed down from challenging the whole 48 hours of strike action but they’re still asking the court to stop any strike action on Tuesday 2 May. 

On Friday (21 April), Health Secretary Steve Barclay threatened to ask the courts to declare the whole strike action unlawful following contact from NHS Employers. 

Later this week, the court will decide whether to support the government’s case and whether our timetable of strike action will change. Members at employers due to take strike action will be informed as early as possible. 

In the meantime, we’re preparing for our spring strike action as planned and getting ready to ballot members for a further six months of strikes. 

In an email to RCN members working for the NHS in England, Pat said: “Tonight, the threat sadly became a reality. We told the government that this is wrong and indefensible. The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them – including in court.

“Before the end of the week, the court will decide whether to support this government’s use of draconian anti-trade union legislation.

“If the government succeeds in silencing members like you and convinces the court to stop part of our strike, then we’ll have no choice but to cut it short. Our strike action has always been safe and legal. We would never ask our members to do anything unsafe or against your professional code.

“It’s so wrong for the government to use taxpayers' money to drag our profession through the courts. We’re determined to show that the nursing profession is strong and determined, and defend our members' right to strike.”

21 April

‘Nurses will not be gagged’ insists RCN over threat of court action to stop upcoming strike

Following a threat of legal action to our upcoming strike action earlier this week, NHS Employers has referred its concerns to the UK government. 

In response, the government has written a “letter before action” and threatened an interim court order to stop our entire 48-hour nursing strike from 8pm on 30 April. 

RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: “This move is nakedly political. Nurses will not be gagged in this way by a bullying government.”

The dispute relates to our strike action on 2 May, which NHS Employers claims is outside our mandate for strike action, which lasts for six months from the point a statutory industrial action ballot closes. Our ballot closed at midday on 2 November, and we argue legal precedent indicates our mandate lasts to midnight on 2 May. NHS Employers argues it only lasts until midnight on 1 May.

Today (21 April), NHS Employers sent a letter to the UK government to ask for intervention on this matter, and to seek the view of the courts as to whether our entire strike action from 30 April to 2 May is lawful. 

Members are asked to be assured that the RCN would never ask them to take strike action that was unlawful and that our upcoming industrial action plans remain in place. You have our full backing and should anything change, you’ll be the first to know. 

“We’re clear that court arguments should only relate to 2 May and not the 30 April and 1 May,” insisted Pat.

 “The government is now desperate to silence nurses rather than address this properly. We want to be in the negotiating room, not the courtroom.”

RCN members working in the NHS in England at workplaces with a strike mandate are preparing to take strike action from 8pm or the start of the night shift on 30 April to 8pm or the start of the night shift on 2 May. This 48 hours of round-the-clock strike action is a significant and appropriate escalation in our fight for fair pay for nursing, which follows a vote to reject the latest pay offer from the UK government. 

We will be balloting our members again on strike action in the coming weeks, for a new strike mandate that covers both the 2022-23 and 2023-24 pay years. It’s essential that your postal address, job, workplace and all other details are up to date for you to have your say. Check now.   

by Wendy
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