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Lords to hear pay appeal

The claim by special school instructors for equal pay with teachers, which could cost councils millions of pounds, is to go to the House of Lords after leave of appeal was granted, Rod McKenzie of Glasgow solicitors Harper Macleod has confirmed.

The firm is representing eight special school instructors employed by the former Strathclyde Region who will be asking the Lords to overturn the decision of the Court of Session which rejected a parity claim brought under the Equal Pay Act. An industrial tribunal had earlier backed their case, and this decision was upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

A total of 145 instructors stand to win nearly Pounds 5 million in back pay from the 12 local authorities which took over from the regional council. They argue that they do the same job as teachers, which the education authorities do not dispute, and that the failure to pay them equally amounts to sex discrimination.

The authorities dispute the charge of discrimination, arguing that the pay differentials are simply the outcome of different negotiating mechanisms in which teachers are bound by a statutory framework whereas the pay of other local authority staff is not. Teachers also have higher qualifications and longer training, the councils point out.

The instructors belong to the Educational Institute of Scotland and to Unison but both have refused to back them and they have raised Pounds 18,000 to take their case to the Lords. Harper Macleod is providing some financial backing and lawyers are working on a no win, no fee basis.

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