LOCAL authorities face the financial nightmare of placing all temporary teachers on permanent contracts if they have satisfactorily completed a year in post.
The prospect follows an employment tribunal ruling in favour of Ann Clark, a former Clydebank home economics teacher, against West Dunbartonshire.
Mrs Clark worked for six years at St Columba's High on back-to-back temporary contracts but failed to be given the permanent post after she was beaten at an open interview. West Dunbartonshire made her redundant but she claimed she was entitled to the job without an interview after completing satisfactory service. The tribunal agreed.
Thousands of teachers across Scotland who have been on full-time temporary contracts will now look to the judgment to give them extra rights.
Many may also claim substantial compensation through a tribunal or sheriff court. Temporary teachers refused a mortgage because they do not have security of contract could sue their employers. Staff who have left their posts over the past five years and who fall under the ruling may be able to claim.
The Educational Institute of Scotland, which supported Mrs Clark, said the decision would improve the job security of all temporary teachers. Ronnie Smith, the union's general secretary, said: "This will not only help protect teachers on fixed-term and temporary contracts - the majority of whom are women - but also sends a clear message to all 32 councils in Scotland that they cannot attempt to ride roughshod over important agreements covering teaching staff."
Councils would learn that they "cannot hire and fire at will" temporary teachers, Mr Smith said.
The tribunal found that Mrs Clark had been dismissed unfairly because West Dunbartonshire breached her contract of employment in asking her to apply for her own job and had not taken account of her "highly satisfactory" performance over six years.
In its written judgment, the tribunal states there was no reason to advertise the post and discounted the council's argument that it had to under the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.
The tribunal backed the conditions of service for teachers spelled out in what has become known as the Yellow Book, negotiated through the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee. The post was not redundant and should therefore have been given to Mrs Clark.
Employers may now challenge the ruling and the case will underline their determination to redraft teachers' terms and conditions. Councils say they will always need temporary staff to cover for illness or fluctuations in pupil numbers and course choice.
Bob Cook, West Dunbartonshire's education manager, said that the council was considering an appeal.
More widely, the individual case was pursued as the authority was removing temporary posts. Up to 20 temporary posts have been made permanent. Thirty other staff remain on temporary contracts.
Mr Cook said: "This will make it more difficult for us but there is no reason for teachers to be on temporary contracts, year in, year out. It is something we inherited from Strathclyde and we are making an effort to address it."
The council had tried to be even-handed to other teachers by advertising posts that were being made permanent. "We were trying to be fair to the wider profession, albeit at the expense of individuals," Mr Cook said.
Mrs Clark said: "This is a significant victory for long-term temporary teachers throughout Scotland. This is justice." She is now working in another authority as a temporary teacher.