Leo Varadkar welcomes RTÉ’s gender pay gap review

Kevin Bakhurst forced pay hike for underpaid female newsroom staff

An RTÉ spokesman said the organisation had concluded a diversity report and would be progressing an internal diversity initiative, based on the report. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

An RTÉ spokesman said the organisation had concluded a diversity report and would be progressing an internal diversity initiative, based on the report. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has welcomed RTÉ’s decision to carry out a gender equality review following controversy over pay gaps and said the Government will insist large numbers of employers conduct salary surveys.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald wants companies with more than 50 employees to undertake wage surveys and is overseeing the development of “practical tools” to enable companies calculate and address the gender pay gap.

“The Taoiseach welcomes RTÉ’s decision to conduct a review into pay in the organisation. He believes strongly that there should be equal pay for equal work and equal experience,” Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said.

“The Tánaiste on behalf of the Government is currently developing proposals which would require employers to conduct a survey of pay levels within their organisation.”

Meanwhile, the Irish Times has learned Kevin Bakhurst, RTÉ’s former deputy director general and managing director of news and current affairs, intervened to increase the pay of some women in the RTÉ newsroom.

The women were primarily off-air staff who had been underpaid historically.

Mr Bakhurst, who left RTÉ at the end of October to join British communications regulator Ofcom after four years at Montrose, declined to comment, as did RTÉ.

Diversity initiative

An RTÉ spokesman said the organisation had concluded a diversity report and would be progressing an internal diversity initiative, based on the report, in the near future.

“Meanwhile, the review of gender role and pay equality is commencing,” the spokesman said.

RTE’s political correspondent Martina Fitzgerald, writing in The Irish Times, called for “transparency” but said the debate should not be confined to a single organisation or one sector.

Ms Fitzgerald said a Dublin City University report last year showed that the principle of “equal pay for equal work” was not evident in Irish journalism as a whole.

“We need to know the extent of the gender pay disparity in workplaces across the Irish economy,” she said.

Fianna Fáil communications spokesman Timmy Dooley called for an externally commissioned audit of pay structures across RTÉ.

“RTÉ, because of its position in Irish life and the nature of its funding, has to be seen to be beyond reproach in this regard. It shouldn’t require ministerial direction. It’s an issue for the director general [Dee Forbes].”

Mr Dooley said he wanted RTÉ representatives to appear before the Oireachtas communications committee in the autumn to discuss the matter.

He said he was “not as exercised” about RTÉ’s commitment to bring forward the publication of fees paid to its “top 10” most highly-paid presenters.

‘Maximum’ transparency

Meanwhile, Minister for Communications Denis Naughten has said he wanted “the maximum amount of transparency possible” from the broadcaster.

Mr Naughten said he understood some details were commercially sensitive but stressed that RTÉ had a duty to the public.

He also welcomed RTÉ’s announcement that it would conduct a review of “role and gender equality”.

On Tuesday RTÉ, in response to media reports, said managers had not received bonuses or general pay increases.

“Uniquely, RTÉ was the only public body to voluntarily suspend and stop increments, stopping manager increments for some four years,” a statement said.

Pay restoration was being introduced on a phased basis and increments applied within existing salary ranges, which were below 2009 levels.