RTE challenge against compensation ruling collapses over 'ageist and sexist' remarks

RTE challenge against compensation ruling collapses over 'ageist and sexist' remarks

RTÉ is challenging the WRC ruling with the argument that a compulsory retirement age of 65 is necessary in order to allow it to recruit and promote younger programme makers with fresh ideas to attract younger audiences.

 A challenge by RTÉ against having to pay €100,000 compensation to a former executive producer who was forced to retire at 65 has dramatically collapsed after a member of the Labour Court accused the station’s barrister of making “ageist and sexist” remarks.

The Labour Court deputy chairman, Alan Haugh, announced the division of the court had decided to recuse itself from the case at the start of the hearing on Thursday.

It followed comments made by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions' representative on the three-member court, Arthur Hall, at the close of the hearing the previous day.

Mr Hall, a former national secretary of the Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union, claimed comments made by RTÉ’s counsel, Marguerite Bolger SC, could be construed as “ageist and sexist”.

Ms Bolger had been outlining the age profiles of a number of RTÉ employees during her cross-examination of former executive producer, Anne Roper, who won a discrimination case against the broadcaster in the Workplace Relations Commission on age grounds.

In response to Mr Hall’s accusation, Ms Bolger replied that she had been “rarely lost for words” and stressed that she had always pursued legal cases in accordance with the instructions of her clients and her professional code.

The meeting was adjourned by Mr Haugh without further discussion.

However, following talks between the legal representatives and the Labour Court before Thursday’s hearing, the deputy chairman announced that it would stand down from the case as a result of Mr Hall’s remarks.

Public apology

Mr Hall also publicly offered sincere apologies to Ms Bolger for any hurt he had caused.

“They were not directed at you in a personal way. It was just about some comments that had been made,” Mr Hall said.

Mr Haugh expressed the Labour Court’s regret to all the parties and their legal representatives for what had happened.

He claimed the Labour Court was fully conscious of the inconvenience and cost of halting a case that had already heard evidence over four days between last November and this month.

However, Mr Haugh said they accepted the correct course of action was for the case to be passed to another division of the Labour Court.

He promised the parties that every effort would be made to have the matter reassigned as soon as possible.

RTÉ is challenging the WRC ruling with the argument that a compulsory retirement age of 65 is necessary in order to allow it to recruit and promote younger programme makers with fresh ideas to attract younger audiences.

The State broadcaster claims such a measure is necessary to ensure “intergenerational fairness” as financial constraints prevented it from increasing overall staff numbers.

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