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Tuesday 24 April 2018

Private school worker loses claim she should not face public pay cuts

Damhnait Nic Bhradaigh
Damhnait Nic Bhradaigh

Gordon Deegan

The school secretary at the exclusive all-girls private fee- paying school, Mount Anville, has lost her claim that she should not face public pay cuts.

In her claim before the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT), Damhnait Nic Bhradaigh argued that since all of her salary is paid from private funds, there was no benefit to the Exchequer in ordering the mandatory reduction in salary.

A total of 27 teachers at the school have their salaries funded by the Department of Education, but all other staff have their salaries funded by fees and private funds with the Dublin school not receiving any state capitation or ancillary grants.

A Dept of Education circular on the salary cuts from the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act (FEMPI Act) 2009 instructed schools to cut pay of all staff - even those not paid by the dept.

The circular stipulated that all staff working in a 'recognised' school come within the definition of public servant, regardless of the source of the money used to fund their salary.

Mount Anville was in agreement with Ms Nic Bhradaigh that there was no benefit to the Exchequer in cutting her salary and wrote to the Finance Minister seeking clarification on the issue.

The school wrote that both directly and indirectly, staff members are of the opinion that they are paid solely out of monies raised by the school and the Oireachtas makes no contribution whatsoever to the monies and that the contracts of employment are private contracts.

The department replied by stating that "it is the status of the employing body in terms of legislation that is the determining factor".

One member of the three- member tribunal agreed with Ms Nic Bhradaigh that she should not be subject to the public pay cut.

The dissenting view argued that Ms Nic Bhradaigh cannot be deemed to be a public servant, given that she does not enjoy the benefits of a public service pension and that the cut in her salary cannot in any way show a saving to state funds.

The dissenting member found that Ms Nic Bhradaigh is entitled to relief under the Payment of Wages Act, finding that she gave no consent to the deduction from her wages and that she established that she was outside the remit of the FEMPI legislation.

However, this view was over-ruled by the two other members of the EAT, who found that the deduction from Ms Nic Bhradaigh's pay was legal.

As a result, Ms Nic Bhradaigh's claim failed.

The Dept of Education yesterday confirmed that €6.62m has been paid to Mount Anville secondary school towards teachers' salaries over the past three years.

However, the figures show that there has been a steady decline since 2011 in the amount paid.

Irish Independent

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