MORE than 600 RTE staff are in line to get wage increases worth more than €1,000 a year each.
An internal industrial relations tribunal at the national broadcaster, which faces a €30m deficit this year, ruled that increments that were suspended at the start of the year, worth an estimated €800,000 annually, be reinstated. They will be backdated to last January.
Unions had agreed to the suspension of increments for a 12-month period between 2009 and 2010 under a deal done with management, which included a pay cut for staff.
The increments were reinstated in June last year, but management suspended them again last January and unions asked the tribunal to intervene.
The staff who will be entitled to the pay rises include journalists, researchers, producers, camera operators and stage hands.
Most of the 2,000-plus workers in RTE will not be entitled to the rises as many have either already reached the top end of their pay scales, or are employed as contractors.
Unions and management have less than a month to decide whether to accept the Industrial Relations Tribunal ruling.
If they do, the station will go back to the drawing board and begin talks with unions to examine alternative ways of making savings. It is already in negotiations with unions about 70 voluntary redundancies and the extension of previous pay cuts, in a bid to reduce costs.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has urged the station to "look at" staff wages due to its growing deficit. Last night, he said it was "imperative" that costs be reduced given the accumulated deficit at RTE.
He said fixing the pay packages of stars on big contracts was not a matter for him. But he warned that those on the highest incomes at RTE "should be required to contribute proportionately to cost reduction".
He said the new director general Noel Curran's salary was just below the €250,000 cap which is "Government policy" for semi-state chiefs.
"Thereafter, pay policy in the company ought to be fixed by the board, which in turn should have regard to Government policy."
The Government cannot interfere with the pay of the station's stars because they are self-employed and they are therefore also exempt from the €250,000 cap on public service salaries. Major stars at the station took a voluntary 10pc pay cut in 2009.
The latest available figures show that TV and radio host Pat Kenny was paid €951,000 in 2008, while the late Gerry Ryan was the second-highest-paid star on €630,000. Radio host Marian Finucane earned €570,000 in 2008, Ryan Tubridy earned €533,000, 'Liveline' host Joe Duffy got €409,000 and sports broadcaster Eamon Dunphy received €328,000. 'Primetime' presenter Miriam O'Callaghan received €302,000.
However, unions argued that lower-paid staff on wages around €40,000 to €50,000 fared worst from the suspension of increments.
In 2009 staff suffered pay reductions ranging from 2.6pc to 12.5pc following a major falloff in advertising revenue.