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Press releases

Nurses Strike Cut Short By Government Legal Challenge

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen has criticised the government for taking the union to court. (Alamy)

3 min read

A government legal challenge has succeeded in cutting short planned industrial action by nurses next week after the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) rejected a pay deal.

Nurses who are members of the RCN union were set to strike from 8pm on 30 April to 8pm on 2 May, however the courts have ruled the final day of strike action as unlawful. 

Speaking outside the High Court responding the the verdict, RCN general secretary Pat Cullen described the decision as "the darkest day in this dispute so far". 

"They've won their legal battle today – but what this has led to is they’ve lost nursing, and they've lost the public," Cullen said.

"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."

Ahead of the announcement, Cullen had hinted that she believed it was likely the government would be successful in their bid to curtail the length of the strike action. 

Health secretary Steve Barclay had argued that the planned industrial action was unlawful and the government were challenging it in the interests of patient welfare.

The legal challenge, which is an injunction to prevent the RCN's last day of strike action, argued the RCN's mandate to strike runs out before the next round of strikes on 2 May. 

Responding to the court ruling in the government's favour, Barclay said while he supported the right to strike "within the law" the government would 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," said Barclay in a statement. 

“We welcome the decision of the High Court that the Royal College of Nursing’s planned strike on 2 May is illegal.

“The government wants to continue working constructively with the Royal College of Nursing, as was the case when we agreed the pay offer that was endorsed by their leadership.

"We now call on them to do the right thing by patients and agree derogations for their strike action on 30 April and 1 May.”

The row came after the RCN rejected a pay offer from government and scheduled more strike action despite other unions, like Unison and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), accepting the deal.

The offer covered two pay years, as well as a one-off amount for 2022/23 and a 5 per cent wage rise – with the lowest paid receiving 10.4 per cent for 2023/24.


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