RTÉ contractors unable to work in Dublin due to 'very low grade' contracts

RTÉ has been accused of offering contracts to long-standing freelance workers that make it unsustainable for them to work in Dublin.

RTÉ contractors unable to work in Dublin due to 'very low grade' contracts

RTÉ has been accused of offering contracts to long-standing freelance workers that make it unsustainable for them to work in Dublin.

The State broadcaster agreed to review the employment status of 157 contractors after an independent report by law firm Eversheds Sutherland found that they had “attributes akin to employment”.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told that RTE began meeting with different contractor groups over the summer and has now issued 81 contracts of employment.

A total of 58 contracts have been formally accepted, two were not accepted and a further 21 employment responses are due before the end of the year.

However, committee member David Cullinane said a number of staff had made contact with him after they were offered "very low grade" contracts which do no take into account the years of previous service.

"They’re being offered grades and salaries which is simply unsustainable for them to work in Dublin. That’s the reality for many of them."

Mr Cullinane said in offering contracts RTÉ have only looked at 2017 and 2018 despite the fact that some of the people involved were working with the broadcaster as far back as 2012.

"They’re very sore about it because there’s an issue that’s being corrected, but as they would see it, unfairly corrected. It’s addressing a problem. Yes they’re being put on contracts and moving away from these freelance contracts they should never have been on but they’re being put on low grades and I think that’s unfortunate to say the least," the Sinn Féin TD said.

Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy agreed that RTE had failed to address the issue of backdating when issuing the contracts

"There’s consequences for later on in terms of pension rights and things like that. That’s why the backdating aspect is really quite important," she said.

Chair of the PAC Sean Fleming said he would ask the Oireachtas Communications Committee to raise the issue of backdating with RTE when it appears next. He pointed out that RTE regularly appears before the Communications Committee.

Writing to the PAC, the broadcaster also said it had also worked closely with tax advisors KPMG regarding the tax position for all contractor groups, adding it has maintained close co-operation with both the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection throughout.

In the same letter sent to the PAC, director general Dee Forbes strongly defended some of the top earners but said negotiations on reducing their pay by up to 15% are ongoing.

"The total sum paid to the top ten earning presenters represents less than 1 % of the overall operating costs, and less than 2% of the overall personnel-related operating costs for the organisation.

"In relation to these individuals, contractual arrangements are in place by mutual agreement between RTE and the presenter. Such contracts are entirely legitimate and provide appropriate flexibility for the presenter to provide their services to other organisations and earn other sources of income from newspapers, writing, event hosting," the letter stated.

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