“There is absolutely no basis for any report that RTÉ will be switching off. The issue is how RTÉ reshapes its cost base in order to protect and deliver its services,” said Kevin Dawson, the state broadcaster’s head of corporate communications.
RTÉ is losing more than e1 million a week because of high costs and a collapse in advertising revenue. A series of cost cutting measures, including pay cuts of between 2% and 12.5%, is aimed at ensuring the station does not run out of money in the autumn. The station’s 2,200 staff have been asked to back management’s cutbacks plan. Balloting began last Friday and will continue until the end of next week.
RTÉ’s director general Cathal Goan told staff that e10m of the e68m needed in savings would come from pay costs, even though such costs represented an average of 50% of the network’s overall cost.
“Were we to seek pay cuts in proportion to the personnel component of our overall costs, we would be seeking pay cuts valued at e34m rather than e10m,” he said.
Mr Goan said those who earned the most were being asked to take the largest pay cut of 12.5% while those on the lowest salaries, below e40,000, were not being asked for cuts.
The company expected that every member of staff, including managers, would agree to the pay reduction that was the equivalent to the payroll cost of about 200 full-time jobs.
Mr Goan also pointed out that no performance-related awards, or bonuses, were paid to any managers last year and none would be paid this year.
In 2007 station managers an annual performance related payment equivalent to over 9.6% of salary while bonuses in 2006 were equivalent to 9% of salary.
“Ultimately, this is the choice for staff: either we can all share this burden together in a measured fashion, as has been negotiated, or we will face much more difficult and radical decisions,” Mr Goan warned.
RTÉ has stated it has no alternative plans to the current proposed initiative, nor are any alternatives being discussed or drawn up by station management while the current process is under way.
Secretary of the group of unions at RTÉ Shane McKean said the unions and RTÉ had been trying to find a way to bring RTÉ out of it financial difficulty and retain jobs.
Mr McKean said the ballot was expected to be completed at the end of next week and confirmed that the question of redundancies was not raised during negotiations.
Mr Goan said the RTÉ executive board had looked at every possible area for savings. “We have minimised the cuts to personnel-related costs as much as we can, without dramatically damaging our public purpose – our services,” he said. “RTÉ has a long tradition of negotiating our way through difficult periods. We have negotiated in good faith for the last number of weeks. All sides agree that action is necessary and that the current set of proposals is the best we can achieve.”