A Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) office bid to wriggle out of paying a member’s career change package has been defeated in court by the IEU, after an arduous five year legal battle.
Alistair Symons was Deputy Principal at Mount St Joseph Milperra when he was offered a ‘Career Change Package’ which was equivalent to half a year’s pay from his employer.
Symons had been a teacher in Catholic schools for 23 years, although in the SCS system for about a year. This is because his school, which was previously Catholic independent school, had become systemic. SCS subsequently decided it wished to reduce the number of deputy positions at Mount St Joseph. After some consideration, Symons accepted the package offer and tendered his resignation.
However, when Symons was subsequently appointed to a new job with Notre Dame University, SCS said he was no longer entitled to the package, as he had a new job, even though Symons had informed his principal he was applying for other jobs and he had received a reference from his principal.
Symons disputed this 'on principle' and the IEU took up the case on his behalf. The initial case before the Federal Circuit Court was unsuccessful, but the IEU legal team appealed to the Federal Court and was successful on appeal.
The Federal Court found that Symons’ success in gaining another position did not break the contract between himself and SCS to receive the Career Change Package.
Symons calls the outcome a “pyrrhic victory’’ however. The case has taken a heavy toll on him and his family. The IEU legal team describes his cross examination as “brutal” in the Federal Circuit Court because SCS’s lawyers questioned Symons’ integrity, even though it had nothing to base that attack on and his character had no relevance to the case.