Monday 23 September 2019

Two-thirds of highest paid staff at RTÉ are men - but 'there's no discrimination'

RTÉ’s education correspondent Emma O’Kelly, who is a staff representative to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
RTÉ’s education correspondent Emma O’Kelly, who is a staff representative to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ)

Niall O'Connor and Seán O'Grady

The row over gender pay at RTÉ resurfaced as a new report found that more than two-thirds of the broadcaster's highest-paid employees are men.

At a "muted" meeting of around 200 staff, RTÉ's director general Dee Forbes faced calls for a full-scale review into pay by an expert in gender law.

RTÉ's handling of the pay issue was labelled "disappointing", with staff arguing the highest-earning presenters were excluded from the review because they are contractors.

The meeting was held to discuss a report into pay and equality by the former head of the Labour Relations Commission, Kieran Mulvey.

The report found an overall pay gap of 4pc between men and women - but said there was no gender discrimination. Nonetheless, it pointed to a significant gap in pay among the station's highest-paid employees. It also noted that RTÉ has an issue with both age profile and diversity at Montrose.

"What is of concern for RTÉ is the age-related profile of its staff and its lack of diversity beyond gender and the attendant challenges it faces in not being able to recruit new full-time posts over the last decade.

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes
RTÉ director general Dee Forbes

"This may create a challenge also in attracting young and early middle-aged audiences and new citizens who are now using digital media on a regular basis for news, communication and entertainment," he added.

He also says that "RTÉ needs to widen the context of its recruitment profile to include the diverse ethnic background, reflecting the more cosmopolitan society we have become in recent years".

Mr Mulvey called for an overall review of structures and grades at RTÉ and warned of the need for greater transparency.

The mediator's report referred at several points to the newsroom of 371 employees.

Some 71pc of the highest paid staff in the newsroom are men.

Mr Mulvey said that RTÉ is "ahead of the curve and Government policy" in relation to its board, and its management make-up is also reasonably balanced. He also said that the 4pc gender pay disparity is below the national average of 14pc.

The document says a greater degree of transparency in relation to salaries and allowances is required. But he noted that the study was not a "pay review", with the terms of reference being set by RTÉ itself.

Mr Mulvey also warned that there are too many grades within RTÉ, and that a "more streamlined structure" would help reduce the issue of gender disparities.

Staff last night expressed their disappointment at the review. They pointed to the gap in pay among staff earning above €90,000. More than two-thirds of staff in this category are men.

RTÉ's education correspondent Emma O'Kelly, who is a staff representative on the National Union of Journalists, described the report as "very disappointing".

"As we pointed out before, it doesn't include the lowest earners and highest earners, who are contractors. It doesn't include pensions. These are critical issues for gender pay disparities. Therefore the report can't be complete."

The decision to exclude contractors means that the pay of the highest paid presenters - including Ryan Tubridy, Ray D'Arcy and Marian Finucane - was not taken into account.

Mr Mulvey notes that data protection issues exist in this regard, given that individual contracts are negotiated.

Ms O'Kelly said Mr Mulvey's "hands were tied due to the extremely limited terms of reference".

In a statement, Ms Forbes said: "This independent report confirms that RTÉ has made significant strides in the area of gender and role equality, and pay. I welcome this, while also fully taking on board the various recommendations. RTÉ is a complex organisation with legacy and historical issues, and with complicated grading structures."

Irish Independent

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