Monday 21 October 2019

RTE could be forced to pay out retrospective employment benefits for years to 157 workers

Stock photo
Stock photo

Allison Bray

RTE could be forced to pay out retrospective employment benefits for years to 157 workers who were wrongly classified as self employed.

A review by legal experts Eversheds Sutherland found that up to157 workers at the State broadcaster were wrongly classified as being self-employed freelances instead of employees.

The review, which was carried at the behest of unions, found that the wrongly-classified workers lost out on such employee benefits as holiday pay, pension entitlements, sick pay, maternity pay and other staff entitlements.

RTE’s Director of Human Resources Eimear Cusack said the broadcaster intends to fulfil the review’s recommendations, which includes introducing a policy for engaging with freelances as well as instituting clear guidelines on hiring contractors and employees. The new policy and guidelines will be in place by September followed by a review of individual contracts.

But the State broadcaster stopped short of commenting on the potential for significant retrospective payments owed to the wrongly-classified workers except to say the priority was to put the guidelines in place first and “other issues would be discussed after that,” according to a report last night on the RTE website.

Meanwhile, Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said the review vindicates the union’s longstanding concerns over employment contracts at RTE.

“The NUJ has long claimed that RTÉ was guilty of breaching the employment rights of workers by forcing them to accept self-employed contracts. This was done as a means of avoiding granting workers sick pay, maternity and paternity leave and pension rights,” he said in a statement last night.

“RTÉ has also denied these workers the right of access to trade union representation – even when they sought to challenge their bogus self-employed status. This report shows that a significant number of workers trapped in inappropriate contracts have employment rights and must have their status corrected.”

While he said he accepts that it will take some time to address individual issues, “priority must be given to ensuring that workers long denied their rights are granted employment status and appropriately compensated by way of retrospective payments.”

He added that RTE is not the only media company in which “bogus self-employment” in an issue.

“The issue of bogus self-employment is a major feature of the media industry. RTÉ is not unique in this regard. The Department of Social Protection should consider carrying out a sectoral review of media organisations in the commercial print and broadcasting sectors.

“Our stand in RTÉ has been vindicated and management has finally decided to accept the scale of the problem. There are strong grounds to suspect there are also significant problems in other media organisations,” he added.

Online Editors

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