RTE admits gender pay gap needs 'clear work'

RTE has admitted it has “clear work to do” if it wants to address its gender pay gap and “legacy issues”, in a letter sent to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

A letter by RTE chair Moya Doherty to Leo Varadkar, seen by the Sunday Independent, highlighted an independent study the State broadcaster has had carried out to understand the pay disparity between male and female staff members.

Ms Doherty told the Taoiseach the broadcaster had to work to address the gender pay gap at the station.

It comes after an independent review into pay at the broadcaster, carried out by Kieran Mulvey, showed a discrepancy between genders working at RTE.

This followed revelations last year that the then-anchors of the Six One news, Bryan Dobson and Sharon Ni Bheolain, earned different salaries despite the presenters doing similar work.

Last year the Sunday Independent revealed Mr Dobson earned an extra €60,000 to €80,000 a year than Ms Ni Bheolain, according to RTE’s 2014 figures.

It led to a significant backlash against RTE management by senior female staff who were concerned about the pay disparity.

In a letter last June, released under the Freedom of Information Act, Ms Doherty updated the Taoiseach on a range of issues relating to RTE.

She told Mr Varadkar that RTE was working to address the gender pay gap.

“In the past year, RTE has led the way in commissioning a detailed and independent study on the factors that have led to gender pay differences within its workforce, revealing a disparity in RTE of circa 4pc (some 10pc less than that national average) but with clear work to do to address the existing gap and legacy issues,” she told Mr Varadkar.

That report was met with some criticism because it did not examine staff who had negotiated lucrative presenting contracts with RTE management.

It covered permanent and fixed-term contracts but the salaries of highest earners and bonuses were excluded.

Ms Doherty said much progress is being made to modernise operations at the state broadcaster, with measures introduced to reduce costs, change content and introduce new staff.

The sale of lands at its Donnybrook studios was also enabling upgrades to key technology, she added.

Last year RTE received a significant cash injection after agreeing to sell more than 8.5 acres to Cairn Homes.

The €107.5m sale was far in excess of the estimated €75m guide price set by estate agents.

It comes during a period in which RTE has faced some financial difficulties. Ms Doherty outlined these in her letter.

“Between 2008 and 2017 annual operating costs in RTE were reduced by 24pc (circa €100m) while commercial revenues fell 36pc,” she wrote.

“Couple that with a 12pc reduction in public funding and far greater competition, and it is clear that the last decade has been a serious challenge for RTE, as it has been for many others.

“During that period, RTE has significantly reduced its staff numbers, sharply curtailed necessary capital investment and had to reduce its investment in programming.”

She said the station has a new five-year strategy in place aimed at reducing costs and outlined a number of measures the station is taking to adapt to future needs and challenges.

“The director-general (Dee Forbes) has completed the first phase of her restructuring of RTE and in doing so, has brought through a new generation of talent (from both inside and outside the organisation) while reducing the overall size of RTE’s workforce.”

Ms Doherty insisted the station was refreshing key shows, including the Six One news, and work was under way to upgrade its existing facilities.

“Following the sale of over eight acres of land in Donnybrook, RTE has completed significant site works to refresh and open up the RTE campus, with much work still in train,” Ms Doherty said.

“New investments in technology and infrastructure, enabled in part by the land sale, are also under way.”

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