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Legal battle over job agency goes on

The outcome of a legal battle between the biggest teachers' union and the largest educational employment agency is undecided, as a High Court judge is still considering his verdict after a trial lasting several days.

The National Union of Teachers claims that Timeplan Educational Group is employing Australian and New Zealand supply teachers at reduced rates, contrary to the law. The agency is seeking damages from the NUT for allegedly inducing a New Zealand magazine, Rou-rou, not to advertise its services.

Timeplan is also seeking an injunction forbidding the NUT from "interfering" in its business affairs. Mr Justice Evans-Lombe has also been asked to declare that the company's supply teachers are not bound by the 1991 Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act.

The union is seeking a declaration to the opposite effect. A New Zealand-born supply teacher, Rex Dunn, has joined the NUT's case, claiming he was underpaid in 1993 by Timeplan by up to Pounds 25 a day.

NUT general secretary Doug McAvoy told the court that he had approved of the agency when it was set up, but was not told of any intention to recruit teachers overseas.

"In 1989, I was not advised of any intention on the part of Timeplan to undercut standard or statutory pay rates of teachers employed by local authorities or governing bodies in England and Wales. Quite clearly, I would not have welcomed any initiative having these effects."

James Goudie QC, for Timeplan, said there was no contract between the agency's supply teachers and local education authorities and governors, and they were not bound by the terms of the Act. The union's complaint that Timeplan was "exploitative" was totally unjustified, he said. The agency's rates for those who had not qualified in the UK were "well up towards the top of the going rate".

The NUT said there was no advertising contract between Timeplan and the New Zealand Education Institute, which publishes the magazine.

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