independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Retired RTE staff lose free 'Guide' to save €100,000

Ann Doyle. Photo: David Conachy
Ann Doyle. Photo: David Conachy

RTE aims to save over €100,000 a year by suspending the supply of free 'RTE Guides' to retired staff. The move, which takes effect from February 1, was ordered by RTE bosses as they attempt to slash spending.

The station has now cut its expenditure by €135m since 2010 and has also managed to shed more than 500 staff.

The latest cuts are understood to be aimed at compensating for the Government's axing of €5m in budget supports for RTE, linked to the nationwide provision of free TV licences for all pensioners over 70.

While RTE's highest-profile retirees include Ann Doyle, Don Cockburn and Mike Murphy, the new cutbacks will only impact on RTE pensioners aged over 70. Those who departed the station early are not pensioners and do not receive the free magazine.

Similarly, stars who were employed by RTE via independent contracting, such as Gay Byrne, did not receive the perk.

But the RTE Pensioners' Association has already received complaints about the cutbacks.

One RTE pensioner, who asked to be unnamed, described the cutbacks as "petty".

"It is not as if anyone is going to go hungry as a result – but given all that has gone on, it is being seen as bit mean. A bit petty," he said.

In a notice sent to all RTE pensioners, human resources director Michael O'Brien warned that the station had no alternative in the current economic climate.

"You will be aware that RTE has been going through a very difficult period over the last number of years," he wrote.

"(There have been) substantial reductions in our revenues, which have meant that we have had to make significant cuts in our costs.

"In this regard, I must inform you that RTE has decided that the weekly posted free distribution of the 'RTE Guide' to pensioners is no longer sustainable as it costs in the region of €100,000 per annum."

However, the RTE official said that pensioners would be offered a special discounted rate if they wished to receive copies of the 'RTE Guide' by post.

Mr O'Brien did not specify what this discounted rate would be, but said pensioners would be advised with a notice in their final free posted copy of the 'RTE Guide' next week.

BUDGETS

RTE confirmed that it hoped to save around €100,000 a year by ending the free magazine distribution.

The state broadcaster pointed out that it had used a range of measures including early retirements, the suspension of bonus and increment payments, voluntary pay cuts from high-paid stars and operational savings to reduce its budget.

"RTE ... (has) achieved a break-even result for 2013 due to extensive and ongoing cost-savings across the organisation ... savings which have seen over €135m taken out of operating costs and staff reductions amounting to almost 500 people," it said.

Irish Independent

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