Courts deal Galbraith a parting blow

10th November 2000 at 00:00
A COURT ruling is threatening to overturn the entire thrust of the former education minister's decision to remove the statutory basis of national bargaining, councils' legal advisers say.

Lord Johnston at the employment appeal tribunal used European law to rule that equal pay comparisons could be made between councils. He effectively said that education is a national service and that all employers are a single entity.

That may be disconcerting news to the advisers of Sam Galbraith, who used the recent education Act to attack legally binding national agreements. Mr Galbraith favoured local flexibility.

But Linda Marsh, who advises the employers on equal pay issues, warned of wider consequences: "What legislation through Section 55 of the education Act is trying to achieve, Lord Johnston has promptly put back in place."

She said his ruling, if not overturned in the Court of Session or House of Lords, could mean thatthe regulations under which the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee operated returned "with more rigidity".

One effect might be that a council declaring a teacher redundant would be forced to search around Scotland for a vacancy.

Ken Wimbor, assistant secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, was more cautious. "The effect is perhaps exaggerated. Lord Johnston was ruling in a relatively narrow area."

Meanwhile, primary heads are to appeal to Lord Johnston against a ruling that the McCrone evidence could not be used in their equal pay test case. They argue that a job evaluation was done and that details should be revealed to support their case.

The authorities will contest this all the way, including, if necessary, a challenge to the validity of the pound;285,000 Pricewaterhouse Coopers job evaluation carried out for the McCrone inquiry. The survey swallowed up half the McCrone committee's budget.

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