INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
LOUTH VOCATIONAL EDUCATION COMMITTEE
(REPRESENTED BY JAMES MC COURT & SONS SOLICITORS)
- AND -
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Alleged job and pay discrimination and alleged threat of dismissal.
2. The dispute concerns the worker's claim that she has been threatened with dismissal and that the VEC discriminated against her in favour of her other part-time colleagues in respect of pay and conditions of employment.
The worker concerned commenced employment with the Louth VEC as a teacher of art on a part-time basis in 1980. She enjoyed equal status with that of her fellow part-time colleagues until 1989, when the Department of Education reached an agreement with the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), which provided that teachers who are fully qualified would enjoy pro-rata benefits in terms of salary and conditions of employment to whole-time permanent employees. The worker did not benefit from the terms of the agreement, as she did not have the relevant qualification required for a permanent appointment. Since 1990 she has been employed annually on a fixed term contract and has been paid holiday pay.
In May 1997, the Department of Education issued circular 16/97 (appointment to permanent whole-time teachers' posts). The circular authorised an increase in the number of permanent posts, the posts to be filled, where possible, by the conversion of temporary part-time posts. Only post holders who were fully qualified were eligible for permanent appointments.
The worker alleges that she has been bullied by management and argues that the agreement reached with the TUI discriminated against her in favour of her part-time colleagues, and that her fixed term contract compels her to the same conditions as her colleagues in respect of teachers' duties, yet she is excluded from her right of equal pay for work of equal value. The worker previously brought a complaint before the Labour Court following the 1989 agreement.
The VEC's position is that the claimant is not a fully qualified teacher, and therefore, could not be considered under the terms of circular 16/97.
The worker referred the matter to the Labour Court on the 8th of July, 1999, under Section 20 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. She agreed to be bound by the Court's recommendation.
The Labour Court investigated the complaint in Dundalk on the 27th of October, 1999, and the 7th of January, 2000. Both parties made written submissions to the Court which were expanded upon orally at the hearing, and both sides supplied additional information to the Court for the hearing on the 7th of January, 2000.
3. 1. The VEC's use of the term "unqualified" is unfair as it implies incompetency, and its concentration on the one single aspect of shortfall, one year's formal teaching qualification discounts the empiric value of twenty-four years teaching experience. It ignores the fact that in 1990/1991, changes in the curriculum necessitated in-service teacher training days in which the worker took part , and the subsequent application of this new syllabus at the school. Junior certificate classes doubled at that time.
2. The employer's application of "technicalities" with regard to qualifications have been inconsistent and hypocritical. When the former principal of the school approached the worker in 1980 with a view to starting art as a new subject at the school he assured her that her qualifications did not matter. Her qualifications only became an issue nine years later, when part-time teachers were given pro-rata treatment and she was excluded and again seventeen years later, when eligible part-time teachers (EPTs) who were the longest in the system were to be given permanent posts and she was to be pushed out altogether.
3. In May, 1997, a number of permanent posts were negotiated between the TUI and management for EPTs who were the longest in the system and teaching the most hours. The worker fulfilled both conditions and one of these posts was to be an art post. On Thursday, the 2nd of May, 1997, the principal informed the worker of the possible consequences for her as a result of the implementation of circular 16/97. This threat of dismissal which was delivered at the classroom door was a continuation of the bullying which started with her exclusion from the pro-rata pay in 1989. By threatening dismissal, the employer breached its own contract of employment which states that EPTs will in practice, be re-employed at the beginning of a new session where the same service is to be provided.
4. The worker left her Drogheda teaching job with full-time hours in 1980 in favour of a smaller number of hours in Dundalk. These hours were increased each year when the principal decided that the students' performance at public examinations reached an acceptable standard, and this performance has continued from first year to Leaving Certificate level.
5. The worker's entitlement to equal pay for work of equal value was denied in 1989 when her part-time colleagues received pro-rata treatment with whole-time employees. A number of complaints to the Louth VEC went unheeded. In 1997, following the threat of dismissal, she requested the VEC in writing, to have her name listed for selection for one of the permanent posts. She got no acknowledgement or reply to her letter, neither was she called for interview. All the successful applicants were both young and new into the system.
6. The failure of the worker to complete the one year's formal teaching qualification in the shape of "Principles of Teaching Art" qualification, was due to the allergies she was trying to cope with, and which were brought on by the abusive treatment of management in 1989.
7. The VEC has stated that the worker's exclusion from pro-rata pay is due to her qualifications, yet the VEC granted a full-time permanent teaching post to a male colleague with similar service to the worker concerned and who has no qualifications. Also a person with considerably less art qualifications than the worker was granted full pro-rata pay and a permanent full-time post in a school nearby.
4. 1. Management wishes to express its shock and disappointment at the language used by the worker to characterise its relationship with her since 1989. It refutes all references made to unfair treatment and in particular, the vicious bullying which she alleges started with her exclusion from the pro-rata pay in 1989.
2. In May, 1997, considerable discussion was taking place in teaching circles regarding the level of permanent whole-time teacher appointments. Central to these discussions was the issue of the impact of this initiative for the staff of each individual school. Having studied the circular, it was agreed that it had significant implications for EPTs. These were:
i. The appointment of additional whole-time teachers to the staff could result in a reduction of the total number of hours available to EPTs.
ii. Additional permanent appointments made within the Louth VEC scheme could result in transfers of staff within the scheme.
3. The interpretation of circular 16/97 was given to the worker as outlined above, and is the same information which was conveyed to the other four EPTs on the staff at the time.
4. The claimant has previously made a complaint against the VEC in respect of alleged discriminatory acts in 1989, in that part-time teachers received pro-rata payment and conditions with their full-time colleagues, and she was excluded. This matter was referred to the Labour Court, who indicated that it could not recommend in favour of the claimant.
5. The Department of Education issued circular 16/97 in May, 1997. The circular authorised an increase in the number of permanent whole-time teachers which the VEC could employ, and laid down the conditions for the establishment of posts. The circular also laid down the procedures for the filling of the additional permanent posts arising. These posts were to be filled, where possible, by the conversion of temporary/part-time posts. Only post holders who were fully qualified were eligible for permanent appointment. The claimant is not a fully qualified teacher and, therefore, could not have been considered under the terms of the circular.
The Court has given serious consideration to the points made by both sides. This is a situation where an employee has been employed as a teacher for 19 years by the Louth VEC and has 24 years teaching experience in total. As she does not hold the full qualifications, she has been deemed ineligible for full status as applies to other part-time teachers. This status includes entitlements to incremental credits. The conditions attached to this grade were devised by agreement between the IVEA and the TUI and are only available to those with the full recognised qualifications. The claimant is aware of this agreement. Aspects of this claim were dealt with in a previous Labour Court Recommendation. She maintains, however, that in the past the Department has circumvented the conditions and exceptions have been made in a small number of other circumstances. The claimant insists that her situation should also be exempted. The VEC deny that this is so. The Court has not been able to ascertain whether this assertion is correct.
The Court is of the view that special consideration should be given to the claimant in view of her very long service, and of the unfortunate circumstances whereby she finds herself on the wrong side of an agreement made between the TUI and the IVEA.
The claimant has also brought a claim of "threat of dismissal" to the Court. The Court is satisfied from its investigation that no such threat of dismissal occurred and that no attempt was made by the principal of the school to deceive the claimant in any way.
However, the Court is of the view that, in relaying to the claimant the implications of the department's circular regarding the appointment of permanent whole-time teaching posts, the communication was conducted in an insensitive manner. The Court is satisfied that no deception was intended. However, the implications of such news for the claimant was not considered before the relaying of the message. This was acknowledged by the principal at the hearing. This method of communication has resulted in offence being taken, where, it seems to the Court, none was intended.
With regard to the issue of "job discrimination", the Court is of the view that it was not sufficient for the Chief Executive Officer of the VEC to ignore the claimant's application for the above mentioned permanent posts simply because she did not have the necessary qualification. The Court is of the view that her application should have been acknowledged and given the same consideration as all others and thereby, referred to the selection committee for a decision at that level.
With regard to the main issue in dispute, the claim for the entitlements which apply to other part-time teachers, the Court recommends that the Chief Executive Officer should now write to the Department of Education with a recommendation that due to her long service and her unique position within the Louth VEC, that special consideration should be extended to the claimant's situation.
The Court recommends that the goodwill expressed towards the claimant should be accepted by her and every effort should be made by both parties to enter into a better working relationship within the school.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
26th January, 2000.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.