A VITAL case which could transform the working conditions of thousands of agency teachers started in the Court of Appeal this week.
Lecturer Debra Allonby is fighting for equal pay and conditions, including pension rights, after she lost her job only to be re-employed at the same college through an agency, Education Lecturing Services.
The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education hopes the case will be referred to the European Court of Justice for a ruling which could ensure equal pay for FE agency staff as well as their colleagues in schools and higher education.
Ms Allonby has used sexual discrimination law to press her case for equal treatment with a male colleague who is on the pay-roll at Accrington and Rossendale College in Lancashire, where she was employed as a part-time member of staff from 1990-96.
She lost her job when the college decided not to renew the contracts of any of its 341 part-time, hourly-paid staff. Of these, 231 were women. Of the 105 full-time staff emaining directly employed by the college, 55 were men.
Tess Gill, representing Ms Allonby, told the court that "outsourcing" predominantly female part-timers amounted to "segregation". She said Ms Allonby and her colleagues lost the right to contractual maternity and sickness pay and the Department for Education and Employment's pension scheme.
The case ended up at the Court of Appeal, in London, after an employment tribunal upheld her claim of unfair dismissal but ruled there had not been sex discrimination by the college and said she was not entitled to the same pay as a member of staff. The tribunal rejected her claim that, as an agency worker, she was being discriminated against over pension rights.
Christopher Jeans, for the college and ELS, told the court Ms Allonby's case was "wholly-misconceived". "The college's requirement that supplementary teachers who wish to work at the college must do so through ELS had no greater impact on women than on men," he added.
The case continues.