Wednesday 12 December 2018

'Losing my RTÉ job due to age was appalling'

Emergency service at the scene of the Ballinasloe crash. Photo: Hany Marzouk
Emergency service at the scene of the Ballinasloe crash. Photo: Hany Marzouk

Melanie Finn and Kevin Doyle

Former RTÉ stalwart Valerie Cox has said losing her job because of her age was "the most appalling thing".

But Ms Cox (67) said she's delighted her successful Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) case has been hailed as striking a blow against ageism in Ireland.

It saw RTÉ being ordered to pay her €50,000 after the WRC ruled she had been discriminated against on the basis of her age.

The BBC has been previously hit with allegations of ageism from older presenters and employees, and now the national broadcaster finds itself in the middle of an age-related controversy.

Her case was raised in the Dáil by Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin, who described it as a "landmark decision" and predicted it will open a flood-gate of similar cases.

Ms Cox said she was "very pleased" with the outcome of the WRC hearing, which she lodged when her second contract was terminated with RTÉ back in December 2016.

The former 'It Says in the Papers' presenter had worked for the broadcaster for 21 years.

"I've always felt very strongly about ageism in Ireland. I encountered it very strongly and that's why I was so keen to get a result, and that's why I took the case," she told the Irish Independent.

"I had hoped for a positive result but I felt I had to strike a blow for both myself and for the over 65s. I think it's the most appalling thing.

"One day, you think everything's great, you're working on cutting edge stuff in a job you love and the next day, you're on the scrap heap.

"You have to go down and sign on at the dole office and it's such an undignified thing to do, as anyone who's had to do it will tell you."

The journalist added she had no real issue with RTÉ, and that this case arose as a result of a "blip with management".

"I would love to do more work campaigning against ageism. We treat older people very badly in this country, we don't realise their potential and we don't realise their voting power.

"I've had hundreds of emails and texts of support and I'm just very happy."

Her full-time contract had been terminated by RTÉ in March 2016 when she turned the retirement age of 65.

She then found out in December 2016 her casual contract to front the early morning newspaper slot was also finished.

She said she was informed this was down to her age, despite there being two people over 65 working on the show at the time, the WRC heard.

She was also going through a "very stressful time" in her personal life, given her husband Brian was struck down with herpesviral encephalitis. He lapsed into a coma and had to spend several months receiving treatment in hospital.

In December 2016, she applied for an extension to her casual contract but this was turned down by RTÉ, prompting her to take the case. The WRC ruled she had been discriminated against on the basis of her age.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Howlin called on the Government to prioritise legislation which will remove the compulsory retirement age of 65 from many sectors of the public service.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said he welcomed the judgment and said he hopes it send out a "signal" for many people in a similar situation.

Irish Independent

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