Tuesday 24 October 2017

High-earning RTE stars to escape state wage cap

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

HIGH-earning RTE broadcasters are likely to escape the Government's new salary cap of €250,000 and continue drawing lucrative wage packets.

Government ministers had the salaries of top RTE broadcasters in their sights when they began planning major cuts to the top salaries in commercial and semi-state organisations.

But it is understood that enforcing a proposed new cap of €250,000 on existing contract holders such as RTE's Pat Kenny, Marian Finucane, Ryan Tubridy and Joe Duffy would be legally very difficult.

Ministers have been told it is fraught with legal difficulties because workers signed-off on particular terms and conditions and now have legally binding contracts.

The question of capping salaries in RTE was raised when ministers were discussing significant cuts to their own salaries in today's Budget.

Some ministers argued that a publicly funded organisation such as RTE should not be paying some of its employees twice what the Taoiseach earns.

But sources last night conceded it would be "very, very difficult" to impose a cap on workers who have existing contracts with RTE and other organisations.

As a result, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is expected to simply focus today on a cap of €250,000 on the senior managers of semi-state companies.

It is thought a new salary cap will only affect new entrants to RTE, commercial and semi-state organisations. The high-profile broadcasters at RTE who earn more than €250,000 are likely to have their salary arrangements maintained.

Semi-state bosses such as the ESB's Padraig McManus, who earned €750,000 last year, and Coillte boss David Gunning, who earned €417,000, have seen their salaries come under huge scrutiny in recent months.

And there has been "considerable disquiet", according to one senior government source, that a publicly funded organisation such as RTE should be paying some of its broadcasters twice what the Taoiseach earns.

"There is also unease at the way in which broadcasters like Pat Kenny and Joe Duffy purport to champion the cause of ordinary citizens on 'Liveline' and 'Frontline' while themselves drawing huge taxpayer-funded salaries," one senior source said.

Fine Gael and Labour have proposed caps of €200,000 and €190,000 across the public sector in their alternative budget plans.

Irish Independent

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