London: A 48-hour strike by nurses in England called on May 2 over the Bank Holiday weekend will be cut short by a day following a High Court decision that the walkout would be illegal.
The strike organised by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) over pay and working conditions will begin as planned at 8 p.m. on April 30, but will now end at midnight on May 1, reports Xinhua news agency.
According to the court ruling, the mandate an earlier RCN’s ballot gave the organisation for calling the strike will expire on May 2.
Calling it “the darkest day of this dispute”, Pat Cullen, RCN’s general secretary and chief executive, said the government had won the legal battle but had lost nursing and the public.
“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 strike action. Nobody wants strikes until Christmas — we should be in the negotiating room, not the courtroom today.
“The government has won this legal battle. But they have lost the support of nursing staff and the public. The most trusted profession has been taken through the courts, by the least trusted people,” Cullen was quoted as saying in an official statement.
Responding to the court ruling, Steve Barclay, the country’s health and social care secretary, said the government welcomed the decision and called on the RCN members to “do the right thing by patients and agree derogations for their strike action”.