By Gordon Deegan
Dublin-based commercial radio music station, Radio Nova has been ordered to pay €30,000 for the unfair dismissal of a female radio presenter.
This follows the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) finding that there was no justification not giving the un-named radio presenter some opportunity to become part of the newly structured format at the station when she was made redundant in August 2016.
The presenter told the WRC hearing that she loved her job and was not forewarned that she was going to be made redundant.
The dismissal letter told the evening time presenter that her post was being redundant due to a reorganisation being implemented across the station by reason of an ongoing challenging market and economic position.
Finding that the presenter was unfairly dismissed, WRC adjudication officer Penelope McGrath stated that the presenter at the time of her dismissal “was given no notice that her radio show was under threat and she was given no opportunity to defend her show”.
The presenter pointed to all the positive press releases from Radio Nova about expansion, increased revenue and market share which were all contemporaneous with the behind-the-scenes discussions to make her position redundant.
The presenter stated that she simply could not understand why she had been singled out and why no consideration was given by Radio Nova to see what other position might work for her when everyone agreed she had experience, clout, respect and ability within the industry.
She stated that no consideration was given to re-training, re-skilling, a reduction in her hours or income – the position was simply terminated.
The radio presenter - whose contract was renewed in March 2016 - fronted a show in the evenings from 7pm to midnight as well doing a specialised magazine one hour show at the weekends.
The presenter worked 50 hours a week and received an annual salary of €40,000. The presenter has worked in broadcasting since 2001/02 and had worked with Radio Nova for 18 months before her dismissal.
Radio Nova broadcasts to Dublin and parts of Wicklow, Meath and Kildare and is the newest entrant into the Dublin/Eastern market. The station has former 2fM DJs John Clarke and Ruth Scott on its roster, while former 2FM breakfast time DJ Colm Hayes was appointed as programme director last year.
JNLR figures show that there was a dip in listenership for Radio Nova in the third quarter of 2016 and it was in response to this dip that financial cutbacks were sought.
MD at the station, Kevin Branigan told the WRC hearing that the presenter’s live show in the evening was no longer viable and therefore, the plan, in line with many commercial radio stations of similar size, was for pre-planned music with pre-recorded introductory segments post 7pm.
Mr Branigan said that it would take a contractor six hours to put together 24 hours of such radio. Mr Branigan stated that he himself had taken a pay cut in 2014/15.
The station's financial controller gave evidence concerning the very tight margins and the inability of the station to get into profit with a year-on-year loss being the annual picture.
Radio Nova did not dispute that fact that there was no consultative process to speak of in making the presenter redundant and argued that this does not necessarily render the ultimate decision invalid or unreasonable.
The station argued that the business requirement was for financial cutbacks in a situation where annual loss exceeded the annual percentage increase in what appeared to be healthy enough advertising revenues.
The company argued that it had to ensure the future of all of its employees by making one employee redundant.
The company stated that it has never been profitable, but there has been a steady growth in sales and revenues though these are counterbalanced by increased levies, remuneration costs, advertisement agency commission and other associated commercial costs.
WRC Adjudication Officer, Penelope McGrath stated that that the dip in listenership which raised alarm bells in the third quarter of 2016 did not become a trend and it seems that the numbers did improve.
Commenting on the WRC ruling, Mr Branigan said today that Radio Nova regards the decision to make the presenter redundant "as very much in the past. The business is performing very well and audience and listenership figures are up".
Mr Branigan said that the redundancy was one of very few redundancies made during the seven and a half years of Radio Nova.
He said: "It wasn't an easy decision to make and was made taking into account the general state of the radio industry at the time."
Mr Branigan said that the €30,000 award "was within the range of what we expected".
He said that the station is considering appealing the ruling to the Labour Court in consultation with its legal advisers.
He said that the station doesn't bear any ill-will towards the presenter in question. He said: "We want to put this behind us and wish the individual the best of luck. We didn't want the case to go to the WRC and would have preferred to have it resolved before then. It is what it is."