Sunday 22 April 2018

Air of uncertainty as job cuts announced - but staff left to wonder who will go

The RTÉ campus in Donnybrook, Dublin 4, part of which is to be sold off. Photo: Doug O’Connor
The RTÉ campus in Donnybrook, Dublin 4, part of which is to be sold off. Photo: Doug O’Connor

Jennifer O'Brien and Conor Feehan

An "air of uncertainty" has been hovering over Montrose for months now, a senior RTÉ staff member has revealed.

At the station's TV studio 4 yesterday, staff packed in to hear about the grand new 'vision' for the station.

But most had already seen the headlines announcing 200-300 redundancies and heard Dee Forbes's lengthy interview with Sean O'Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1. Many were frustrated the news had been made public prior to meeting with staff.

Workers gathered around internal TVs throughout the campus, which beamed the meeting across screens for those who couldn't attend or fit in the studio.

Ms Forbes's speech focused less on redundancy specifics and was more of an upbeat discussion about new hubs and plans to bring RTÉ further into the digital age.

With the money gathered from the imminent sale of campus land, after taxes, the funds would go into new infrastructure and towards much-needed updates to technology, she said.

Ms Forbes also referenced a Finnish broadcaster she had visited, which, she said, had most emulated the type of structure she wants to impose on RTÉ.

Following her speech, questions were put to the floor.

One correspondent posed a question about highly sought after car parking spaces - a number of which will be lost with the sale of land on the campus.

Afterwards, one RTÉ staff member pointed out that mass redundancies could result in a lack of experienced broadcasters and programme makers within the station.

"They will pay people to go and then pay them more to come back on contract," the employee said.

"The station will find a lot of people applying for redundancy but then it will find that the only way to cover the work they did properly is to hire them back.

"RTÉ has made the mistake of becoming too top heavy.

"There is an over-abundance of managers and supervisors and project people in areas like human resources, marketing and sales and less people doing the actual work on the ground," they said.

Another senior staff member spoke of the growing feeling of discontent and uncertainty around RTÉ.

"There has been an air of uncertainty over Montrose for a while - there's no doubt about it," they said.

"Talk of these redundancies has been doing the rounds since before Christmas and there wasn't much said specifically about where they will be made in the meeting.

"With the planned merger of TV, radio and digital under one umbrella of content, there are a lot of people uncertain about their futures.

"It makes people fearful and unsure - especially the old guard - some of whom feel that they could be surplus to requirements around here now."

Trade Union Group (TUG) chair Shirley Bradshaw wasn't at the meeting but did have a "briefing" with the director general on Tuesday.

For Ms Bradshaw, the most important thing is that the station does seem to have a plan.

"From a TUG perspective, we welcome that there is a plan and we will work with them to find the best solution," she said.

"As long as the redundancies are voluntary, we will work with them...we don't know where the job cuts lie at this stage and my concern would be that people who want to avail of the package, would be able to."

She added: "In regards to what the package might be, we have no idea and we will just have to wait."

As, it seems, will 10pc of RTÉ's workforce.

Irish Independent

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