Monday 25 September 2017

Broadcaster's 'adapt or die' move will cost €20m as 200 workers are made redundant

Journalism under threat: NUJ chief Séamus Dooley. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Journalism under threat: NUJ chief Séamus Dooley. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Anne-Marie Walsh

RTÉ is set to spend an estimated €20m to shed about 200 staff after director general Dee Forbes warned it must "adapt or die".

Ms Forbes confirmed that a voluntary redundancy scheme would target a 10pc reduction in the workforce over two years.

The new scheme comes not long after the station cut staff numbers by 510 under an exit scheme that took place in tranches over the past few years.

The cost of a package in that scheme for a worker on €60,000 with 15 years' service would have been around €87,030.

On this basis, a scheme for 200 workers would cost €17.4m, although sources said the total cost would probably be closer to €20m.

Funds for the new scheme will be raised from a €75m sale of prime property at the Montrose campus and Ms Forbes has not ruled out further sales.

An RTÉ spokesperson said the cost of the redundancy programme has not been finalised.

Unions reacted to the news with concern rather than fury as the job losses will be on a voluntary rather than compulsory basis.

The chair of the RTÉ Group of Unions, Shirley Bradshaw, said "ideally" the terms would be similar to those available under the last scheme of six weeks' pay per year of service.

High-profile names, including former chief news correspondent Charlie Bird - who worked at RTÉ for 38 years - and newsreader Ann Doyle left under the deal.

"I think a good few people have long enough service and are near retirement age, who were denied it last time," said Ms Bradshaw.

Siptu organiser Graham Macken said he expected the company to honour previous agreements by maintaining the value of previous packages.

Acting general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Séamus Dooley said it would work with sister unions to ensure RTÉ's public service broadcasting obligations were not adversely affected "at a time when journalism is under threat".

He said the future of public service broadcasting would not be secured with an increase in the licence fee or the "outdated and grossly inefficient" collection system.

Irish Independent

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