Tuesday 25 July 2017

Axing came out of blue, says radio psychic

Allison Bray

Allison Bray

PSYCHIC Una Power broke down in tears yesterday as she told an employment tribunal of her shock when a radio station cut her hours and ultimately axed her popular phone-in show.

Ms Power (60), who hosted the 'Psychic Zone' programme on Dublin's 98 since November 1996, said she didn't see it coming when the station's management abruptly cut her hours and then cancelled the show after 12 years on air.

Her twice-weekly show was halved to just one two-hour weekly slot in June 2008. The station then cancelled the programme in December 2008.

Ms Power claims she is still owed €8,500 in redundancy pay under the Redundancy Payments Act and represented herself at the hearing at the Employment Appeals Tribunal in Dublin.

"It came completely out of the blue," she told the hearing.

"I was just so stunned. I had a discussion with the show's producers a few days before and they urged me to come along to the station's relaunch," she said.

But the day after the relaunch, she received a letter from the station's management advising her that her long-running Friday night show was being cancelled and that she would only present the Sunday night show.

Rebranded

The letter also stated the decision was no reflection of her performance and that her Sunday show would remain intact.

The station, owned by billionaire Denis O'Brien and trading as Radio Two Thousand Ltd, started off as the classic rock station 98FM. But it rebranded itself as a pop-music station catering to the 25-44 age market and changed its name to Dublin's 98 in June 2008.

Ms Power told the panel she was then given two months' pay, amounting to €2,500, which she took as a goodwill gesture from the company in lieu of having her on-air time cut in half. However, she said the decision left her very "upset and disappointed".

Ms Power insisted she "didn't want to make a fuss about it" for fear of losing her Sunday night slot as well. She even thought the Friday night show might be reinstated at a later date.

But her worst fears were realised six months later when she was made redundant. Ms Power broke down as she recounted her experience to the panel.

"I'm so sorry. I feel so embarrassed but I didn't realise I was still so upset about it," she said.

She claims her redundancy settlement was based on the reduced hours of two hours per week instead of the four hours a week she had worked since 1996. The company, represented by solicitor Theresa Howlett, denies her claim.

Ms Howlett -- who tried to have the media excluded from the hearing -- said Ms Power was paid six weeks' redundancy pay upon cancellation of the show in accordance with the act.

"It's really a simple issue regarding how to calculate the hours," she said.

But the panel, chaired by tribunal vice-chairman Dermot McCarthy, reserved judgment, stating the case was "complex".

Both Ms Howlett and Chris Doyle, the company's CEO who also attended the hearing, declined to comment.

But after the hearing, Ms Power told the Irish Independent that she took on the "David and Goliath" case as a matter of principal.

"The money is peanuts, but I just thought I didn't want them to get away with it," she said.

"I loved 98FM. They have lovely crews and producers and listeners. You feel so lucky to be on that show, but the executives have such great power."

Irish Independent

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