RTÉ agrees to review status of 106 contractors

New policy promised after report finds ‘inconsistencies’ in hiring practices

Contractor review at RTÉ’s Montrose campus in Donnybrook. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Contractor review at RTÉ’s Montrose campus in Donnybrook. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

RTÉ has agreed to review the employment status of 106 contractors after an independent report found that they have “attributes akin to employment”.

The report by law firm Eversheds Sutherland reviewed a total of 433 RTÉ contractors and found that most, some 276 people, were appropriately engaged as contractors rather than as staff.

However, “inconsistencies” were identified in certain roles where some people had been hired as staff and others as contractors.

As well as the 106 people found to have “attributes akin to employment”, a further 51 contractors were assessed as having “attributes akin to both employment and self-employment” and should have their status reviewed after the initial group, the report said.

It recommended that RTÉ introduce a new policy on hiring freelances, developing “clear guidelines” on how and when it engages either contractors or employees.

RTÉ said it would “embrace” the recommendations of the report, which were shared with RTÉ staff and with the RTÉ trade union group today.

New policy

Reviews of the initial 106 individual contractors’ employment status will take place from September, once the new policy and guidelines are in place. These reviews are expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

“This report has been a valuable exercise and we embrace the recommendations in full,” said RTÉ director of human resources Eimear Cusack.

Ms Cusack added that each freelance had “their own unique set of circumstances” and that RTÉ would speak with all affected individuals “to ascertain the most appropriate status for them”.

RTÉ undertook to commission the report last year, in the wake of a separate report focusing on gender inequality.

The publicly funded broadcaster’s employment practices were highlighted at a hearing of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee attended by RTÉ director-general Dee Forbes last month. The phenomenon of “fake freelances” throughout the media sector is also one that has been raised by the National Union of Journalists.

The deficit-laden State-owned broadcaster has separately been under pressure to reduce its costs.

The RTÉ Trade Union Group (TUG) welcomed the publication of the review, saying it confirmed what they had been “telling management for years”.

“It is a welcome development that 106 people forced to work as contractors and freelancers against their wishes in RTÉ have now been recognised and will have their employment status corrected,” the TUG said. “This is a significant positive development for people working in RTÉ and trade unions hope that the steps to follow will set an example for other organisations who have sought to exploit the gig economy at the expense of workers rights and entitlements.”

The TUG said it would insist that RTÉ gives “urgent priority” to implementation of the recommendations.