Imagine the stress, distress and deep sense of injustice you would feel if you were forced by your employer, for no valid reason, to leave a place where you had worked for twenty or more years.
This has been the experience of three teachers at a small primary school in North Lanarkshire, when their employer decided to invoke the mobility clause in their contract to require them to be permanently deployed to other schools at the start of this new academic year.
The action was taken by the employer without any formal procedure being invoked and without either consent or agreement of the teachers concerned.
The reason given by North Lanarkshire Authority was that an inspection Report from Education Scotland had identified issues with the year groups in which these teachers taught.
However, the Report focused on only progress and achievement across the school. It did not identify any problems particular to these year groups, nor did it name or identify any individual teachers.
None of the teachers being directed to move had, had issues raised about their performance. None of the established provisions or procedures for invoking the mobility clause were applied.
In response to this injustice, the NASUWT mounted a challenge to the actions of the employer, invoking the employer's grievance procedure and through legal proceedings by application to the court for an interim interdict to seek to prevent the teachers being moved at the start of the academic year. This application was successful and the teachers have now returned to their school.
However, despite having an interim court judgement against it preventing the forced move, North Lanarkshire Local Authority still intends to waste scarce public money and resources, continuing to challenge this decision.
Vigorously challenging the abuse of the mobility clause is not only important for the teachers at St Augustine's school but also for teachers across Scotland. All teachers have a mobility clause in their contracts. If employers are allowed to invoke the clause on the spurious grounds offered by North Lanarkshire, then teachers will face constant job insecurity and children and young people risk losing committed and dedicated teachers and having their learning disrupted.
The NASUWT will be leaving no stone unturned to seek to protect the North Lanarkshire teachers, and indeed all teachers, by pursuing all appropriate formal procedures, lobbying national and local politicians and continuing with legal action.
As this issue has national implications, I have already contacted the Deputy First Minister John Swinney, highlighting the Union's deep concerns and asking for his help to ensure the mobility clause is not abused. The Union is also contacting the education leads of other political parties requesting that they raise this as an issue.
The NASUWT has launched an E-Postcard Campaign which we are encouraging people to sign to express their support for the teachers at St Augustine's and their opposition to the abuse of the mobility clause. The postcard can be signed at www.nasuwt.org.uk/StAugustines.
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