Updated 1.16pm with MUMN reaction below.
A judge has provisionally accepted a request by the health ministry to stop the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses from taking industrial action that, according to the ministry, will "seriously prejudice" public health services.
A warrant of prohibitory injunction was provisionally issued by Mr Justice Robert Mangion. The case will be heard next week.
The MUMN is in dispute with the ministry on financial issues in a sectoral agreement.
Its directives include nurses not coordinating transfers of patients, not chasing results including those from COVID-19 swabs and not giving handovers.
The ministry's lawyers argued the directives are unlawful, disproportionate and excessive.
"As a result of the directives, the health and lives of those making use of public health services will be put in serious danger, particularly those most vulnerable in light of the COVID-19 pandemic," the application for the warrant by the ministry read.
Lawyers Paula Cauchi and Alex Sciberras signed the application.
MUMN: 'An act of arrogance and betrayal to the frontliners'
In a reaction, the MUMN accused the ministry of acting to stop it from defending the right of its members to demand the same financial package and working conditions given to other healthcare professionals.
It said the government had lost all arguments at the table and had resorted to the courts to hide behind magistrates.
The union said the government was refusing to give shift allowances and allowances for professional development, among others.
It described the warrant of prohibitory injunction as "an act of arrogance and betrayal to the frontliners from the Prime Minister and the Health Minister."
This, it said, was a message to all nurses and midwives that there was no respect towards their professions.
What is a warrant for prohibitory injunction?
The aim of a warrant of prohibitory injunction is to stop an individual or an entity from doing anything that might be prejudicial to the individual or entity who sought the warrant.
Unless rescinded by the court or withdrawn by the party filing the application, the warrant remains in force for 15 days.