Teacher picture

The European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) has ruled that the Irish Government did not discriminate against teachers on the grounds of age by cutting the starting salary for new entrants.

The matter was brought before the ECJ by two claimants, Tomás Horgan and Claire Keegen, both members of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (“INTO”), who qualified as teachers in 2011. This was following the decision to impose a 10% pay cut on new entrants to the public service. They claimants argued that over the course of their career they will earn 4% less than colleagues who qualified a year earlier.

The claimants maintained that the lower pay scales represented discrimination on age grounds as more than 70% of newly qualified teachers in 2011 were 25 years old and under.

In their ruling, the ECJ said that the government’s two tier pay scale does not breach any EU equality legislation.

In its verdict the ECJ ruled that the difference in treatment resulted from the date of recruitment and not the age of the new entrant stating, “The only relevant criterion for the purposes of applying the new rules on the salary scale and classification on that scale is whether the person concerned is a “new entrant to the public service as of 1 January 2011,” regardless of the age of the public servant at the date at which he or she was recruited. Accordingly, that criterion, which renders the application of the new rules’ dependent exclusively on the date of recruitment as an objective and neutral factor, is manifestly unconnected to any taking into account of the age of the persons recruited.”

The case now returns to the Labour Court where the claimants will reply in detail to the ECJ .

INTO president Mr Joe Killeen said they will “ask the Labour Court to find that what looks on its face like age-linked discrimination is exactly that.”

INTO stated that the ECJ ruling was “a bitter disappointment” and it would continue to fight the two-tier system.

Breda Sheahan is an Associate with FitzGerald Legal & Advisory of 6 Lapps Quay, Cork

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