Friday 20 April 2018

Cash-strapped RTÉ paid secret bonuses to bosses despite €20m deficit

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Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Cash-strapped RTÉ paid secret bonuses to more than 200 managers last year, with one in five getting an average 3.25pc boost to their salaries.

The broadcaster now has 101 staff earning more than €100,000, excluding contracted stars like Ryan Tubridy, Ray D'Arcy and Marian Finucane.

As demands grow for more transparency around RTÉ's pay structure, bosses have ordered a review of role and gender equality across the organisation.

However, staff want an input into its terms of reference. The station's education correspondent Emma O'Kelly told the Irish Independent that "transparency" must be the key objective.

Ms O'Kelly, who is chair of the National Union of Journalist's broadcasting branch in Dublin, said: "We welcome the announcement of this review but we would be keen, like our sister unions, to have a role in drawing up the terms of reference.

"The most important thing to us is transparency. We would like RTÉ to follow the lead of the universities and publish a gender breakdown of remuneration and of grades."

The station last night failed to supply such a breakdown but noted its employee list is almost gender-balanced.

It comes as the Irish Independent can reveal further details of a special bonus scheme which saw 207 managers receive "performance increment increases" while at the same time RTÉ was amassing a deficit of €19.7m.

The station initially refused to divulge figures in relation to the salary top-ups, arguing the release of such information was not in the public interest. The broadcaster received €179m from licence fee payers in 2016.

However, following a Freedom of Information (FOI) appeal from Labour Party senator Kevin Humphreys, it was confirmed that around 40 managers received increases averaging 3.25pc. Overall, the 207 managers received an average increase of 1.55pc in 2016. The station will not release the financial value of the increases but they are understood to be worth a minimum of €1,000 per employee. The most up-to-date information available from RTÉ shows the average salary in 2015 was €57,564, but the vast majority of managers could expect to be on more than this.

RTÉ's pay bill rose by €5m last year and is likely to keep rising ahead of plans for 200 job cuts.

Between 2008 and 2013, a series of pay reductions was introduced but full pay restoration will be complete on December 18 this year.

RTÉ has 167 staff members who are classified as "managerial", which means they have staff who report to them. This figure rises to 289 when professionals and specialist staff such as lawyers, accountants, engineers and technologists are factored in.

Of these, 72pc received the payments, with RTÉ noting that not all managers were considered eligible as some already attained the maximum salary for their position.

RTÉ insists the extra payments are not 'bonuses' but simultaneously describes them as "performance increment increases".

Mr Humphreys told the Irish Independent: "At the same time as the Director General is looking for a licence fee increase, there's now questions over a gender pay gap and discrimination against women in the organisation. As a public service broadcaster, we shouldn't have to be seeking this information through FOI. The way they are presenting the figure, you'd almost believe there's something to hide."

Mr Humphreys also questioned whether RTÉ was living up to its public service remit, saying management needs to rethink how scarce resources are used.

"Is it better spent on tackling real issues or with people dotted around Vietnam?" he asked, a reference to 'Francis Brennan's Grand Tour of Vietnam' which is airing on RTÉ One.

Irish Independent

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