SIMON BUTLER – FRENCH COURT RULING IN FULL
30th November 2016 | Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
PlanetSKI can exclusively reveal details of the judgment of the Administrative Court that Simon Butler and 6 other British ski instructors are qualified to teach in France. NEW
We have been sent copies of the Lyon court’s rulings in all 7 cases before they are publicly distributed, along with an analysis of the implications produced by the ECOE – the European Confederation of Outdoor Employers.
The ECOE is a small Brussels-based organisation which supported the instructors in their legal action, and whose secretary is Jean-Yves Lapeyrère, a member of Mr Butler’s legal team.
It claims that anyone with BASI Level 2 or above now has the right to work in France, as long as they declare themselves and their qualifications to the authorities in advance and allow 2 months for them to be considered.
The Confederation is fiercely critical of the “protectionist” French and of the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI), which it says has failed to defend its own members.
Simon Butler was arrested in 2013 while instructing on the slopes of Megève. He was found guilty of teaching without the correct qualifications and of employing instructors who were not suitably qualified.
But last week the Administrative Court ruled that the French had acted illegally in refusing to recognise their qualifications, as we reported in this article.
The documentation we have received suggests the implications will be felt far beyond the ski industry.
It also confirms that the rulings apply to Mr Butler and to the instructors who worked for him at the time, regardless of their different levels of instructing qualification.
They are Mark Gibbs, Alex Casey, James Wilkins, Adam Alder-Cox, Amy Piercy and Philip May.
In all cases, the decision of the Prefect of the Rhône-Alpes has been cancelled, meaning they can work in France legally.
The State has been ordered to pay each of them €900.
A link to all the judgments – which are in French – is at the end of this article, along with a series of questions and answers, put together by the ECOE, for instructors wishing to work in France.
These are the main points picked out by the ECOE’s French lawyer:
- The refusal to grant the instructors a Professional Card enabling them to work was illegal.
- The French authorities submitted no evidence of a substantial difference between the British qualifications and the diploma required in France to teach alpine skiing for remuneration.
- The demonstration of a substantial difference is a pre-requisite to any other process, and the burden of proof is on the French authorities.
- The Eurotest (speed test) is a final aptitude test that an EU instructor can be asked to pass if, and only if, a substantial difference between qualifications is demonstrated AND the individual’s professional experience does not compensate for that difference.
- The Eurotest point above extends to all outdoor activities and all compensation tests that may be imposed on their instructors.
- EU citizens benefit from article R.212-90 of the French Code of Sport (based on European directive 2005/36/EC), which establishes a presumption of qualification as soon as the country of origin (the UK in this case) regulates the training of a ski instructor, delivered by a competent authority (eg BASI).
- The above presumption of qualification also applies to all regulated outdoor professions or training.
- Even without a Professional Card, the instructors now have the right to work in France as ski instructors, regardless of any appeal by the French authorities.
The European Confederation of Outdoor Employers claims that the effect of the court’s ruling is that British instructors qualified at BASI levels 2, 3 and 4, can work without passing the Eurotest, as long as they declare themselves and their qualifications to the authorities beforehand.
“The Eurotest is not an obligation,” it says in a statement to PlanetSKI.
“These judgments prove that the Directive applies in full, and that mutual recognition of qualifications is absolutely compulsory, in the absence of demonstration of the existence of a substantial difference, or otherwise, if professional experience compensates the demonstrated difference.”
The Confederation says that the EU Directive requires UK and other EU nationals to have “a level of qualification at least equivalent to the level immediately below that required on the national (French) territory”.
It is contacting the European Commission urging it to demand the directives are enforced by EU member states.
It has also lodged a complaint in the Criminal Court of Lyon against French civil servants who it says have acted as a “gang” obstructing the enforcement of National and EU law.
The ECOE is highly critical of both the French State – which it accuses of acting for “protectionist reasons” contrary to its own law, and BASI, Simon Butler’s professional body.
BASI did not support him in his fight with the French and was often hostile to his actions. Mr Butler withdrew his £500,000 claim for damages against BASI after last week’s court victory, as we reported here.
“The real problem comes from BASI, which has never defended its qualified members,” the Confederation says, “either due to their incompetence or to their collusion with the French authorities in the limited interest of certain individuals.”
PlanetSKI approached BASI for a comment.
“BASI has and always will continue to look after the interests of its members,” the Chief Executive, Andrew Lockerbie, told us.
“We will continue to protect the BASI qualifications and ensure that the working rights of all the BASI qualifications are fully promoted in the UK and around the rest of the World.”
Mr Lockerbie said BASI’s full official response to the French Court decision would be out on Friday.
BASI has issued a separate statement on the withdrawal of Mr Butler’s claim for damages against them, which is on its website.
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