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RTE expected to cut 400 jobs under new cost-saving plans

Staff expect to be told that up to 400 non-compulsory redundancies could be sought.

LAST UPDATE | 13 Nov 2023

RTÉ IS AIMING to reduce staff numbers by up to 400 over the next two years through a voluntary redundancy. 

Under a new cost-saving “strategic vision” plan, which is due to be published tomorrow, the cost of this scheme is estimated to be in the region of €40 million.

The plan also intends to further reduce operating costs by around €10 million next year.

Overall, the plan sets out to reduce the headcount of staff at the national broadcaster by 20%. 

Staff are to attend a meeting with management tomorrow afternoon, where Director General Kevin Bakhurst is expected to outline the plans. 

The plan sets out that there will more production in Cork and in other regions in the years ahead, such as Galway and Limerick. 

More content is set to be produced through independent commissions while the plan states that services such as RTÉ + 1, RTÉ Radio 1 Extra, RTÉ Pulse and RTÉ 2XM are to be scrapped.

There plan also is expected to outline ideas of vacating part of the Donnybrook campus.

Minister for Arts and the Media Catherine Martin had asked for the strategic vision to include an analysis of the cost of leaving RTE’s Dublin campus in Donnybrook.

In a statement, RTÉ said “it will publish its strategic vision document tomorrow afternoon following a meeting with unions and staff representative groups and a briefing of RTÉ staff by Director-General, Kevin Bakhurst. RTÉ has no further comment”. 

The minister received a copy of RTÉ’s plan last week after it was approved by the RTÉ board.

Backhurst told the Public Accounts Committee last month that the broadcaster would run out of money if it did not get extra funding.

However, Martin has said that interim funding of €40 million would only be released after the completion of a new strategic vision for the broadcaster.

“Any decision on additional interim funding for RTÉ is conditional on this new strategic vision demonstrating that transparency, robust governance and greater efficiency are at the heart of its operations,” she said.

The minister also revealed that the €40 million would not completely cover the projected shortfall in TV licence revenues of €61 million this year and next year.

Martin said previously that the government will have no role in deciding whether compulsory redundancies or pay cuts are implemented in RTÉ. 

Instead, she said it will be the RTÉ Director General who will make that call as part of his cost-cutting decision-making at the broadcaster. 

“It’s not a matter for me to engage in that sort of micromanaging of salaries,” Martin said at the time. 

RTÉ was plunged into crisis in June when the State broadcaster revealed it under-declared fees to Tubridy, its then-highest-paid staff member.

The scandal widened as a series of other financial and governance issues emerged. 

When asked about the job losses by RTÉ this evening, Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton said she didn’t want to “keep adding to their concerns”.

Having a national broadcaster is “so important”, she said, “to make sure that we get facts and information out to the public that we serve”.

Asked what will happen if not enough people volunteer for redundancy, Noughton said: “No matter what organisation is coming to the State for funding, we need ensure that there is give and take.

“It’s not going to be easy, and it hasn’t been – it’s been a very difficult process for RTÉ – but we need to as a government ensure that we continue to support it.”

‘Further blow to trust of staff’

Labour spokesperson for media Marie Sherlock said the redundancies are “deeply concerning”.

“The apparent scale of the reductions leaves a question mark over RTÉ’s commitment not just to news and current affairs, but also to sport, entertainment, the arts, music and an Gaeilge.

“Management at RTÉ will have to demonstrate that the broadcaster will be able to fulfil its remit and obligations under such a reduced operation.”

Labour is to seek a detailed plan and strategy from RTÉ on how it intends to operate on a smaller scale.

Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Séamus Dooley, and the RTÉ Trade Union Group have called for the broadcaster to immediately circulate the strategy document, that was leaked to the media this afternoon.

Dooley said this evening: “I acknowledge that the Director General wants to put his proposals in context but that ship has now sailed and the only way to allay the fears of staff is immediate release of the document.”

Dooley labelled the leak a “further blow to the trust of staff in an organisation where morale is at an all-time low”.

“Against the backdrop of an investigation into the last Voluntary Redundancy Programme staff will be very sceptical about a new programme.”

Dooley added: “Staff will want an assurance that there is a genuine, sustainable long plan based on clearly defined objectives that than a set of announcements aimed at securing government support for short term funding.”

Includes reporting by Muiris O’Cearbhaill

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