Claims for compensation for teachers returning from secondment, which the Department of Education estimated could cost up to €1.5m a year, have been rejected by an independent arbitration body.
The Teachers’ Arbitration Board (TAB) has recommended that teachers returning from secondment with support services operated by the department should not be entitled to any additional payments or measures as compensation for any loss of earnings or pension entitlements.
It ruled “an unsustainable position” had been allowed to develop where a number of teachers had occupied secondment posts for “exceptionally long periods”, which the department was seeking to address on the direction of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
The three main teacher unions – the INTO, ASTI and TUI – had sought compensation for the loss of earnings for teachers who had returned from secondment to certain support service schemes which delivered continuous professional development to schools and teachers.
The claim, which was first lodged in September 2015, was referred to the TAB after various attempts to resolve the dispute failed.
The unions claimed the department had unilaterally imposed a five-year limit on staff on secondment to its support services in 2015 which was retrospective to 2010.
They argued the method of selection of teachers who had to return to school was unclear and represented a change of policy by the department, while many derogations and exemptions were permitted for some teachers.
The unions said about a dozen teachers had their secondment, which had extended up to 15 years, ended.
As a consequence, the unions said these teachers had to forgo additional earnings from their secondment, which were estimated to be worth €16,284 a year.
They claimed they had put forward reasonable compensation proposals for the loss of earnings.
Teachers who had been placed on secondment had also suffered lost promotional opportunities, according to the unions They claimed the proposed cost of compensation estimated by the department was “exaggerated.”
The unions suggested that those returning from secondment should receive a payment of 1.5 times the annual loss to be paid in tranches over an 18-month period.
However, the claim was strongly resisted by the department, which pointed out there was nothing unique about staff returning from secondment after a protracted period and there were a number of precedents where they occurred without any compensation or retention of allowances being approved.
“To provide teachers returning from secondment with any form of compensation would be to remunerate them for duties and responsibilities that they no longer have,” the department said.
It also expressed concern that concession on the issue could have a series of knock-on effects across many parts of the public service.
Regarding claims of lost promotional opportunities, the department said working in the support services was seen as a chance for teachers to develop new skills to enhance their career development.
It claimed acceptance of the union’s claim would also result in an increase in teachers’ pay which would run contrary to Fempi legislation on public pay introduced following the economic crash in 2009.
Outlining the board’s ruling, TAB chairperson Loughlin Quinn said the practice of the secondment of teachers was laudable as it benefitted both the teachers in terms of experience, which would benefit the school and students on their return to the classroom.