Business Irish

Saturday 21 October 2017

RTE to cut staff as losses hit €25m

Jason O'Brien

Jason O'Brien

RTE is to cut between 50 and 250 jobs in an attempt to ease its massive budget deficit, the Irish Independent has learnt.

Senior managerial sources said yesterday that between 50 and 60 positions would be targeted under a new voluntary redundancy scheme at the national broadcaster.

But RTE is set to lose around €25m this year based on current budget projections -- compared to a deficit of approximately €5m last year.

And other sources believe the huge deficit will ensure more redundancies are required, with a figure of between 150 and 250 mentioned.

An RTE spokesman denied the higher figures last night.

"RTE and the Trade Union Group at RTE have been in discussion regarding a range of existing and future cost-saving plans across the organisation," he said.

"The discussion will include consideration of a voluntary redundancy programme.

"No specific proposal for such a programme has been put by RTE at this point.

"The numbers envisaged as possibly availing of such a programme, if confirmed, are far less than those suggested by the newspaper."

The Irish Independent understands that details of the voluntary redundancy scheme will be given to staff within a month.

Staff at the broadcaster were warned in January that RTE could only sustain losses at current levels for two years before running out of cash.

An external financial review of the station's fiscal health had been carried out to see if pay cuts of up to 12.5pc introduced two years earlier could be reversed.

But it found instead that the station will lose about €25m this year, mainly due to a recent restructuring of the licence fee, poor advertising revenue, and costs associated with digital television.

Heavy further pay cuts for staff and the cutting of programme budgets are among the areas under consideration, while the salaries of the station's biggest stars -- including Ryan Tubridy, Marian Finucane and Pat Kenny, who earn hundreds of thousands of euro a year -- have also been discussed.

The voluntary redundancy scheme will, however, be introduced.

Projected

"Given the size of that projected deficit I would say that nothing is off the table (in terms of numbers)," one source involved in the negotiations said.

"If you look at the cost of past severance deals I imagine (management) will have a significant target in mind to make it worthwhile."

The average annual salary of staff at RTE is €61,000.

If 50 people took up the voluntary redundancy offer, it would save about €3m a year in wages.

However, RTE's operational deficit is estimated at around €25m for 2011.

Among its extra costs this year is a €10m payment to TG4 after a cut in exchequer funding in last year's budget. It will also lose out on €3m because the Government will no longer pay the licence fee of pensioners.

Its commitment to the rollout of digital terrestrial television will cost €70m spread over a number of years.

Irish Independent

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