Sunday 19 January 2020

School entitled to pay teachers less than State rate, High Court rules

Tim Healy and Katherine Donnelly

A PRIVATE school is entitled to pay two teachers it directly employs less than those paid for by the Department of Education and Science, the High Court ruled yesterday.

Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne overturned a Labour Court finding that two teachers in the Catholic University School (CUS) were entitled to be compared with Department-funded teachers when their terms and conditions were being assessed.

The CUS is a Marist Fathers-run primary and secondary school based in Leeson Street, Dublin.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said its legal advisers were looking at the implications of the ruling.

ASTI incoming general secretary Pat King said, despite the ruling, it was not in the interests of equity, dignity or fairness that schools should have a two-tier pay system for teachers.

There are several hundred privately paid teachers in the country -- not only in the fee-paying sector -- and Mr King said that while many schools paid the Department rate, others did not.

Ms Justice Dunne ruled that the Department determines the terms and conditions of teachers directly paid by it, while the school's board of management determines those of privately-paid teachers.

The Labour Court had therefore fallen into error when it found they were entitled to compare their situations with those of their colleagues paid from the public purse, she said.

The school had "no hand, act or part" in determining the salaries of the Department-funded teachers and it was, under legislation relating to agency workers, the employer of the two teachers, she said.

The judge did not accept arguments that Department-paid teachers doing the same work have the same type of "employment contract or relationship" with the school as the two privately-paid teachers.

The High Court heard that the two teachers were among a small number privately paid by the school while the Department pays the majority of salaries. There had been no dispute that the two are treated less favourably than their Department-paid colleagues, in areas including incremental increases, qualification allowances and other conditions of employment.

Their claims related to rights provided by recent legislation for part-time workers and fixed-term contracts which came about as a result of EU directives.

A Rights Commissioner found part-time teachers in the school were treated less favourably than comparable full-time teachers and these findings were upheld by the Labour Court.

The school argued the comparison should not have been made between Department-funded full-time teachers, but between other privately-paid full-time teachers in its employment.

The two part-time teachers had been treated equally and no less favourably than those full-time privately-paid teachers, it said.

In her judgment yesterday, Ms Justice Dunne said Department-paid teachers' terms and conditions are negotiated under a teachers' conciliation council which makes them subject to redeployment, while a privately-paid teacher is not subject to this.

The judge adjourned the case until next week, when an application will be made by the school to have the matter sent back to the Labour Court.

Irish Independent

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