Minister seeks clarity on status of teacher
THE MINISTER for Education has brought a High Court action seeking to clarify a Labour Court finding that a teacher is an employee of the Minister.
The case arises from a complaint by Anne Boyle, who was a teacher at Hillside Park preschool in Galway, about the Minister denying her entry into a pension scheme for national school teachers. In a ruling earlier this month, the Labour Court found Ms Boyle was an employee of the Minister, should be included in the pension scheme and had been discriminated against. It awarded her €10,000.
The Minister disputes Ms Boyle was ever his employee and argues that the Labour Court’s determination was unreasonable and contains a fundamental error of law.
Leave to bring the action was granted yesterday by Mr Justice Brian McGovern, who returned the matter to November. The Minister was also granted a stay on the Labour Court determination until the High Court proceedings have been fully determined.
Moving the ex parte (one side only represented) application for leave, Feichin McDonagh SC, for the Minister, said the Minister had paid the salary of thousands of primary and secondary teachers for many years but the teachers’ contracts of employment were with the respective boards of management of the individual schools.
The Labour Court’s decision went against a number of High Court and Supreme Court judgments to the effect the Minister was not an employer of teachers, Mr McDonagh added. The decision was of major significance and the Minister wanted “clarity”.
Ms Boyle had worked at the school, which provides education for young Travellers. The school is funded via a grant provided by the Minister.
In 2009, Ms Boyle registered a complaint under the 2001 Protection of Employees Act (Part-Time Work) to a rights commissioner.
She complained she, as a part-time worker, was being treated less favourably than a comparable full- time worker – a national school teacher – by not being admitted to the National Teachers Pension Scheme.
She named both the Hillside Park preschool committee and the Minister as her employer. She also said her payment did not exceed 98 per cent of the salary paid to a teacher employed by the board of management of a recognised national school.
The rights commissioner found Ms Boyle was not an employee of the Minister and made no finding in respect of the school’s committee. Ms Boyle appealed that to the Labour Court which, on July 4th, made a number of conclusions including that Ms Boyle was an employee of the Minister. Her complaint of receiving less favourable treatment than a full-time comparator was well founded, it held.
The Minister was also directed by the Labour Court to enter Ms Boyle in the pension scheme and pay €10,000 compensation for the effects of the discrimination she suffered.
The Minister claims the Labour Court failed to have proper regard to Ms Boyle’s admission she had been employed by the management committee of the Hillside preschool and also failed to apply the doctrine of precedent in considering who her employer was.
The Minister claims Ms Boyle was employed by a separate third party and the Labour Court made a finding of discrimination in the absence of any evidence.