€1.2m for RTE career breaks in bid to cut wage costs
RTE is spending €1.2m to encourage staff to take a career break in a desperate bid to slash the state broadcaster's wage bill.
Sixty-one staff availed of the "incentivised career break" introduced last year -- and all of them decided to take two years away from RTE, new figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal. Each employee will be paid €10,000 for each year they are away.
Personnel, including reporters and presenters, were invited to apply for the scheme last year as RTE sought to cut its wage bill by €10m.
However, the departures of big name stars such as former economics editor George Lee and former 'Prime Time' host Mark Little took place on voluntary leaves of absence which are unpaid.
The final bill to RTE for the incentivised career break will be €1,220,000, or the equivalent of 7,625 television licence fees.
However, it is not clear how much money the broadcaster will save by having the 61 staff off a full wage for two years.
According to RTE unions late last year, the average annual salary had dropped to approximately €61,000, following wage cuts introduced at the broadcaster as part of the attempt to save €10m.
Based on this, the career breaks will save RTE over €3m in wages this year and next year before pension provisions and other costs are factored in.
Information received from RTE under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) confirms staff were deemed eligible for a career break if their work could "be re-organised and carried out without recruitment" and if they had been with the broadcaster for, at least, two years.
It has also been confirmed the employees are guaranteed to return to RTE on the same salary as when they left.
However, their previous positions are not guaranteed. "This depends on RTE's requirements upon return," the RTE FoI officer told the Irish Independent. "The same work cannot necessarily be guaranteed."
While staff are free to take up other employment when they are away from RTE, they will not be allowed to take on similar media work for direct competitors without management's consent. Unlike the voluntary leave of absence arrangement, which will see Mr Lee return to Montrose in May and could see Mr Little back next January, staff who took the two-year career break cannot return before the two years are up. The first to return are expected in November 2011.