Employment

High Court bans striking hospital staff from 'waving banners' and making 'any loud noise'

Great Ormond Street Hospital applied for the injunction saying "excessive noise" from protesters had "left children in tears". The union described it as a "sneak preview" of how the government's Policing Bill will suppress protests.

Striking workers outside Great Ormond Street Hospital. Image: United Voices of the World

Protesters and striking security guards at Great Ormond Street have been banned from waving banners, “vigorously dancing”, shouting and making “any other loud noise” outside the famous children’s hospital.

The High Court has served the United Voices of the World (UVW) union with with a temporary injunction after an application from the hospital, which said “excessive noise and disruption” since the strike started had “left children in tears” and stopped clinicians from doing their jobs properly.

The court order also bans the union, its general manager Petros Elia and “persons unknown” from playing music, taking photos of anyone entering or leaving the hospital, blocking access and engaging in conduct which, “objectively viewed”, is likely to alarm, intimidate or distress.

The wording states protesters must not “engage in any of the following within 200 metres of the trust’s premises”:

  • The playing of music;
  • Shouting;
  • Rapid and dramatic movement (such as, for example vigorous dancing, the waving of banners etc);
  • Any other loud noise;
  • Photographing or videoing individuals entering or leaving the trust’s premises

The security guards have been on strike since February 2 over demands for the same annual leave, sick pay, and career progression as those employed by the NHS. They do not receive these benefits as outsourced workers employed by a third party company, Carlisle Support Services (Carlisle).

The strike is planned for six weeks, which would make it one of the longest walkouts in the history of the health service.

Police were called on February 4 after protesters occupied a reception area of one of the hospital buildings for the morning and performed the Macarena.

The temporary order was served on Thursday and a full hearing will take place at the High Court on Wednesday, where union bosses will call for “the injunction to be ripped up.”

Petros Elia, general secretary of UVW, called the injunction a “sneak preview of what life will be like if the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill becomes law, allowing employers to severely restrict the ability of unions to hold picket lines, with the threat of fines or imprisonment”.

The Policing Bill has sparked widespread anger over plans to clampdown on protesting.

“This injunction is the latest attempt by a powerful public institution to try and silence a small group of Black, brown and migrant low-paid workers on strike for sick pay and against discrimination,” said Elia, who is named in the injunction.

“They are trying to gag us. They are trying to suppress us. They are hiding behind the sick children we look after and protect. We are just a few but we are determined and we will not despair. We will continue to fight and we will be heard!” said a striking security guard who wished to remain anonymous. 

A spokesperson for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children said: “Our first responsibility is to the children and families who depend on our hospital. Excessive noise and disruption in recent weeks has left children in tears, families and staff feeling unsafe and clinicians unable to properly to do their jobs.

“We respect the right to strike and the right to peaceful protest so, before going to court, we asked the union involved in this disruption to agree to certain conditions to ensure their pickets and protests did not disrupt care.

“Sadly, the union refused to agree to some of the key boundaries so we felt we had no choice but to apply for an injunction to protect our patients.”

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