Four Met Éireann TV presenters paid €84,000 on top of salaries
With spring on the way the weather forecasts might be improving, but the outlook for future Met Éireann TV presenters is looking decidedly gloomy.
The Department of Public Expenditure wants to abolish a special allowance paid to meteorologists who present the weather on TV.
Unpublished figures indicate four Met Éireann weather presenters shared a total of just over €84,000 in 2011, or an average of just over €21,000 each, in addition to their annual salaries.
Met Éireann has a contract with RTÉ for the provision of live TV and radio weather bulletins. Staff members are paid a per diem payment which covers 365 days of the year.
An internal Government document, however, states the TV allowance “should not be payable for new beneficiaries” following a review of allowances for members of the public sector.
Officials plan to engage with staff representatives of Met Éireann with a view to abolishing payment of this allowance for new beneficiaries.
Met Éireann weather presenters also receive travel-related expenses for TV appearances. Staff are provided with a wardrobe for TV appearance.
The allowance is being reviewed by the Department of Public Expenditure next month, which is examining allowances in the public sector.
Unlike most public sector allowances, details of the Met Éireann TV allowances were not made public on the basis that they were “commercially sensitive”. The details were refused under a Freedom of Information request, however, The Irish Times has established the figures involved.
Overall, just over 150 staff who work for Met Éireann received €2.3 million in allowances, on top of their salaries, in 2011. Allowances accounted for almost 20 per cent of employees’ pay. Staff working outside of normal office hours receive allowances of up 27 per cent of their salary.
It has six allowances that are specific to the weather service which include payments for working shifts, public holiday allowances, as well as for travelling to work and eating on-site.
Almost 70 staff in Met Éireann are being paid special shift-working premiums for working normal office hours, records show.
Despite working nine to five, the employees receive allowances worth 13 per cent of their salary. This works out at payments of up to €10,000 extra to each employee, or an overall cost of €460,000 in 2011.
The allowance was introduced in the 1970s as a way of making office hours more financially attractive for staff who could earn more by doing shift work.
Internal Government records show it was part of a “comprehensive agreement which recognised this difficulty for management, but also a difficulty for staff that might be ‘forced off’ shift as a result of the requirements of the service or by health considerations”.
Other allowances payable to certain grades of Met Éireann staff include a “travel to work allowance”, for those who work in rural areas where there is no public transport available. It is worth up to €3,000 a year.
In 2011, just six people were paid the allowance, but it is not payable to new recruits.
Eating on site
The department is engaging with staff representatives with a view to abolishing the allowance for existing beneficiaries, records state. There is also an “eating on site” allowance worth €494 which was paid to two staff members based in rural areas. This is paid to certain grades of “State industrial staff” across the public sector.