The Federal Court has ordered the Australian International Academy of Education to pay what is believed to be the largest penalties ever awarded against an Australian school.
Justice Christopher Jessup has ordered the school to pay more than $150,000 in penalties, its director general Salah Salman to pay a penalty, and for both to pay a substantial amount of the union’s legal costs, over unlawful employment practices and the hindrance of attempts by the Independent Education Union of Australia to inspect teachers’ contracts.
In his reasons handed down today, the judge described the actions of the school as “a calculated deception”.
The case went to trial in September and October 2015 with the applicants – the union and a member – alleging that the school had breached the Award and the Fair Work Act by:
(a) Hiring too many teachers on a fixed term basis at the beginning of the 2012 school year;
(b) Failing to advise the teachers in their letters of why they were being employed on a fixed term basis.
(c) Altering the front pages of teachers’ contracts after knowing the union sought to inspect them;
(d) Not providing the union with the original front pages of contracts they had requested;
(e) Refusing to allow union officials access to electronic copies of the teachers’ contracts.
The applicants also alleged that Mr Salman contravened the Fair Work Act by hindering and obstructing union officials seeking to inspect teachers’ contracts.
Justice Jessup upheld these claims in his decision handed down in February this year.
Daniel Victory, Senior Associate from Maurice Blackburn who represented the applicants, said today’s orders: “represent one of the largest award of penalties ever against an Australian school.
“The judge has recognised the tireless efforts of the union in bringing these contraventions to light.” he said.
“This case is a warning signal for any schools misusing fixed term contracts. The misuse of fixed term contracts is not just bad for teachers and students; this case shows that it can also lead to significant penalties for schools.
“This case also highlights the importance of unions, as without the tireless work of the union, these contraventions may never have come to light.”
This case shows the need for proper rights of entry for unions. In this case, the school falsified contracts after the union had taken action to enable inspection of them.