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Job losses 'unavoidable' at UTV Ireland as merger with TV3 is finalised

UTV Ireland currently employs 61 permanent staff.

Image: Mark Stedman

UTV IRELAND HAS officially become part of TV3, with the loss of some jobs expected as a result.

Irish commercial broadcaster TV3 – which is owned by Virgin Media – announced today that it has officially completed the acquisition of UTV Ireland.

It is expected that there will be some jobs losses at the network as a result of the merger.

UTV Ireland currently employs 61 permanent staff.

In a statement today, Virgin Media announced a “restructuring programme” around consolidating the two businesses into one.

It said it has 40 open job vacancies at TV3, “many of which it is hoped will be filled by current UTV Ireland staff”.

“The proposed changes may result in unavoidable redundancies in UTV Ireland,” a Virgin Media Spokesperson said.

But where possible, staff will be offered redeployment opportunities within TV3.

The company will enter into a 30 day consultation period with effect from 5 December.

UTV Ireland will become part will rebrand and become part of Virgin Media’s Irish broadcast operation by the end of January, joining TV3 and 3e.

As a result of the merger, UTV Ireland will move from its base at Macken House in Dublin 1 to TV3 HQ in Ballymount.

Today’s merger announcement was preceded by a confirmation last week that leading primetime soaps Emmerdale and Coronation Street will be returning to TV3 from UTV Ireland as a result.

Redundancies 

Commenting on the merger, Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said that he hoped Virgin Media would honour its “moral obligation” and offer redundancy packages to UTV Ireland staff who lose their jobs as a result.

“We would hope that the company would meet a moral obligation,” Dooley told TheJournal.ie.

That anyone who loses their job as a result is offered a redundancy package or a transfer.

Dooley said that the merger between the two broadcasters arose out of a transfer of shares and so employee rights aren’t protected under current laws.

The law which protects employees when companies merge (known as TUPE) does not apply when a transfer of shares take place.

It is unclear at this stage whether UTV Ireland employees who lose their jobs will be awarded redundancy packages following the merger.

Dooley said the NUJ was calling on Virgin Media to “do the right thing” and ensure that redundancies are offered, and that anyone reemployed by TV3 doesn’t suffer diminished working conditions.

“We call on employer to honour the agreement, do the decent thing and ensure that people that transfer over don’t suffer diminished conditions,” he said.

When asked whether it would be providing redundancy packages to UTV Ireland staff, a spokesperson for Virgin Media said it will “not be disclosing any detail regarding our discussions with staff at UTV Ireland at this time”.

Dooley encouraged any members of UTV Ireland to contact the NUJ if they had concerns.

Struggle

From its inception in January 2015, UTV Ireland struggled to compete for ratings with established broadcasters RTÉ and TV3.

UTV Media which owned the station said last November it expected to lose €18.4 million on the station in its first year.

That trading update came a month after it was announced the company was selling its entire TV operation to ITV, including its long-running Northern Ireland-based service.

It was announced in July that the station was to be sold to Virgin Media for the price tag of about €10 million.

Commenting today on the acquisition, Pat Kiely, managing director of TV3 said that it “strengthens independent television broadcasting in Ireland”.

“We can now also play an increasingly bigger role in the development of Irish originated production and broadcasting.

I am confident that our new three channel structure will drive the future potential and long term growth of the business.

Read: UTV Ireland and TV3 will soon be part of one big company. What will that mean for viewers?

Read: UTV Ireland is being sold to the company that already owns TV3

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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