RTÉ management to meet 150 contractors to discuss employment status

Move follows review that found freelances have ‘attributes akin to employment’

RTÉ campus at Montrose, Donnybrook. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

RTÉ campus at Montrose, Donnybrook. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

More than 150 contractors working in RTÉ are to be called into meetings with management to discuss their positions following a review of their roles.

RTÉ last year agreed to review the employment status of 157 contractors after an independent report by law firm Eversheds Sutherland found that they have “attributes akin to employment”.

In a letter to the Public Accounts Committee, RTÉ said it will be calling the individuals in for meetings to discuss their roles this month. An appeals process has been set up for those who disagree with the outcome.

The letter, which was sent on April 24th, said the process would be completed by the “second half of 2019”.

After the Eversheds report, a further and more detailed review of the status of the contractors began in July 2018.

This entailed “face-to-face meetings with the business line managers to gather further information of the facts and circumstances pertaining to each contractor”.

Given the complexity involved and the need for detailed due diligence this part of the process was concluded in December 2018.

“Final validation of the data commenced in January 2019,” the letter said. “In reaching agreement a number of issues have had to be addressed to the satisfaction of all and this has resulted in some delay to the process which is regrettable.

“However, RTÉ is now in a position to commence individual discussions as appropriate.”

RTÉ is meeting with individual contractors, sequenced by groups of 30, where it is proposed to “change the basis of engagement”.

“Each individual will then have a period of time to make a decision to accept or reject the offer of employment.

“An appeals process has been established to externally and independently review individual appeal cases which may arise,” the letter states.

The issue was raised most recently in the Public Accounts Committee by the Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy who queried why the process was taking so long to complete.

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

Revised policy

In the latest letter to the PAC, RTÉ says it has now developed a “revised policy and set of guidelines regarding the engagement of contractors on a go-forward basis”.

“This policy was implemented on Tuesday 29th January with comprehensive training undertaken by all relevant managers during February 2019.”

Earlier this year, the National Union of Journalists described talks about the contractors’ roles as “tortuous and extremely difficult”.

Séamus Dooley, the union’s Irish secretary, said he had spent more time at the RTÉ campus than “any human being should be required to do”, before criticising the culture of media “personalities” that are treated differently to other staff.

“All broadcasting and media organisations have a fetish about personalities,” he said. “There is a perception that on-screen talent should be treated differently. I reject that notion. It has a number of negative consequences.

“It denies some employees of promotion. It has potential for discrimination on [grounds of] age and gender.”