Thursday 19 April 2018

Broadcaster won case over word 'bonus' - but rejects use for own staff

Chairperson of the Oireachtas Communications Committee Hildegarde Naughton. Photo: Tom Burke
Chairperson of the Oireachtas Communications Committee Hildegarde Naughton. Photo: Tom Burke Newsdesk Newsdesk

RTÉ described efforts to prevent its journalists and editors from using the term 'bonus' as an "unwarranted inhibition" on public interest journalism.

In 2015, the national broadcaster insisted upon using the term to describe increments attached to the pay structure at Ervia, the parent company of Irish Water.

Ervia brought a complaint to the Broadcasting Authority (BAI) in response to a number of terms used to describe pay to its staff.

The phrases used by RTÉ to describe the increments were "bonus payments", "awards", "top-ups" and "multiplier".

At the time, RTÉ insisted in a statement that it was entitled to use "terminology which is fair, accurate and comprehensible to its listeners".

The station added: "The attempt to impose only that language which an organisation wishes to be used is an unwarranted inhibition on journalism in the public interest."

The BAI eventually ruled in RTÉ's favour.

But just hours after this newspaper detailed the bonuses paid to RTÉ staff, the station released a statement which rejected the use of the term.

"These payments are not bonuses," it said. "RTÉ confirms that managers have not received bonuses or general pay increases."

This is despite the fact RTÉ admitted that there were increments paid following performance reviews.

In a follow-up statement last night, a spokesman for RTÉ said there was a clear difference between the increments paid to Ervia staff and the ones paid out by RTÉ. "There are two very different things at play here, one being a bonus system, the other being an incremental pay system within agreed salary bands," the spokesman said.

He said in the case of Ervia, RTÉ reported that staff there had "two further layers of bonus payments, if both the company and their individual business unit exceed all their pre-agreed targets in a given year," the spokesman added.

"Increments apply within existing salary ranges, which are below the 2009 levels. This means that if you reach the top end of your salary range, then you do not receive an increment, or performance-related increment, [as] in the case of managers."

But chairperson of the Oireachtas Communications Committee Hildegarde Naughton called for further explanation. "Call them bonuses, call them increment increases, either way this too has to be made clear and spelled out by RTÉ what exactly they are and how are they decided," she said.

Irish Independent

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