A secondary school teach­er has won an unprecedented claim of victimisation against his own union after successfully fighting his failure to secure a promotion.

In what equality officer Bernadette Treanor said was a "truly sad case" which "blight­ed the lives" not only of the individual involved but also his family's, George Dunbar, a teacher in the Good Counsel College in New Ross, was awarded €10,000 compensation from the secondary teachers' union, the ASTI.

The teachers' union was also instructed to put a bullying-at-work policy in place and introduce procedures to address allegations between members.

A spokeswoman for the ASTI said last week that it is considering the equality officer's ruling and "may appeal".

Treanor found Dunbar had been victimised by two local union officials who were also teachers in the school, one of whom – 'Mr Y' – was promoted ahead of Dunbar on the basis that he was a few months older.

When, in 2001, Dunbar challenged this decision on the grounds of age discrimination, the school shop steward – 'Mr X' – told Dunbar he would be "going against union policy, he would turn the members of the union against him, he would suffer serious consequences". Mr X said this was a "warning to a friend" as to what others might think of an appeal.

Though Dunbar ultimately won his discrimination claim and was awarded €6,500 plus his promotion, matters got worse. Dunbar claimed after his challenge, Mr Y launched a "humiliating" attack on him at a staff meeting. He said the union shop steward, Mr X, failed to intervene and told Dunbar: "You went ahead with the appeal against my advice and without informing me. You can stew in it now."

Dunbar then pursued claims against Mr X and Mr Y and complained to the union. But he said the union pressured him into dropping the complaint and refused legal service to him while offering it to Mr X and Mr Y.

While ruling in favour of Dunbar, Treanor said both parties reacted to every event "so that the overall problem became so complex as to be almost imponder­able".