Friday 22 November 2019

'There should be equal pay for equal work and equal experience' - Varadkar weighs into row over RTÉ pay

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Eagers
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Eagers

Niall O'Connor

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has intervened in the RTÉ pay row, telling station bosses that he believes "strongly" in the principle of equal pay for equal work.

In his first comments on the controversy, Mr Varadkar also insisted that the Government will force all companies to address the issue of gender imbalance in the workplace.

It comes as RTÉ bosses held high-level talks at Montrose yesterday as the Irish Independent revealed details of secret bonuses paid to its top brass.

More than 200 managers received top-ups last year, with one in five getting a 3.25pc boost on their salaries.

In a peculiar move, RTÉ yesterday released a statement rejecting the use of the term bonuses - instead claiming that it had re-introduced a system of "increments" in 2015 that were paid after a performance review. "These payments are not bonuses. RTÉ confirms that managers have not received bonuses or general pay increases," the broadcaster said.

RTÉ previously used the term 'bonus' to describe the pay structure at Irish Water. But a spokesman yesterday insisted that the pay structures at the two organisations were different.

Meanwhile, sources confirmed that senior bosses met yesterday to discuss the fallout from the controversy, as well as plans to conduct an internal review into pay.

The review was announced after a number of senior female broadcasters, including Sharon Ní Bheoláin, Martina Fitzgerald and Emma O'Kelly, publicly spoke out about the gender pay gap.

Ms Ní Bheoláin revealed to the 'Sunday Independent' that she earns up to €80,000 less than her co-anchor Bryan Dobson.

But there was further political pressure placed on RTÉ last night - this time by Mr Varadkar.

"The Taoiseach welcomes RTÉ's decision to conduct a review into pay in the organisation. He believes strongly that there should be equal pay for equal work and equal experience," Mr Varadkar's senior spokesman told the Irish Independent.

"The Tánaiste [Frances Fitzgerald], on behalf of the Government, is currently developing proposals which would require employers to conduct a survey of pay levels within their organisation, building on the recently published Women and Girls Strategy," he added.

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

The Irish Independent revealed details which showed 207 managers received "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.

Irish Independent

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