Statement by Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary, on RTÉ report

  • 31 Jan 2024

As Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, I note publication of the review of RTÉ’s voluntary severance package carried out by McCann FitzGerald.

Trade unions did not receive an advance copy of this report nor were we involved in the review.

I note with concern the confirmation that the RTÉ Executive Board was not consulted on the exit package, although the now deputy director general had already confirmed to the committee on Public Accounts that he had not known his fellow executive board member, the chief financial officer, had availed of the package.

The Rules of the RTÉ Voluntary Exit Programme 2021 specifically state: “Final decisions on all applications will be made by the Executive Board.” That rule has always applied.

At no stage in negotiations with the Trade Union Group were union representatives advised that the director general would have discretion to agree an individual application without referral to the full Executive Board or that other members of the Executive Board could be obliged to accept or enforce an application on instruction from the director general.

Ms Breda O’Keefe, as chief financial officer, was herself a member of the Executive Board. Any application from a member of the Executive Board was clearly a sensitive matter, which should have been brought to the attention of the chair and the full RTÉ board. It is unconscionable that any member of the Executive Board, including the director general, would not recognise the implications of such an application, the potential for conflict of interest and the corporate governance rules surrounding the application.

In negotiations with members of the Executive Board, the Trade Union Group and the NUJ whom I represent, worked on the assumption of good faith negotiations. We were not aware of a parallel process or the existence of a separate route which circumvented the published rules.

The report does not, in my view, adequately explain how this process developed.

Transparency and trust are at the heart of industrial relations. All members of the Executive Board shared a responsibility for protecting the integrity of the relationship between management and staff and likewise between management and those who represented staff in negotiations, including trade unions.


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