RTE chairwoman reveals how much the broadcaster has forked out to settle self-employment cases

RT has put 21.3 million on ice to settle a bill with the Department of Social Welfare for the misclassification of workers at the national broadcaster, writes Aisling Moloney.

Terence ORourkeRT’s new board chairman made the revelation at the Oireachtas Media Committee this week.

It marks an increase of about 6 million from the 15.2 million that had been set aside at the end of 2022 to pay off tax liabilities arising from the practice of bogus self-employment in broadcasters.

A report by law firm Eversheds Sutherland in 2018 found that up to 157 workers in RT were wrongly classified as self-employed.

The department then launched its investigation into RT and is now looking into 701 cases where the workers were engaged as contractors but may have been entitled to employee status which could have resulted in them losing benefits such as pension rights and holiday pay.

The RT will have to repay the department any unpaid PRSI payments where a worker should have been treated as an employee.

The broadcaster said last year that 1.2 million was paid to the Revenue in relation to 35 misclassified employees.

A recent Government review said RT needed to intensify its engagement with the investigating department after the station’s head of human resources warned it could take 15 years to deal with the cases.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath said RT had breached social welfare legislation and said the station had a rotten culture of misclassifying workers.

At an Oireachtas Media Committee hearing this week, Mr ORourke told politicians there had been mistakes in the way RT classified workers in the past.

He said: Some of these areas are not straightforward. They are very complex areas, with different legal views on their interpretation.

They are not just black and white. There are also grays inside.

Any violations of the law that have occurred must be corrected and dealt with. There is no doubt about it, he said.

Mr ORourke said the tax law written by the Oireachtas is complicated with different legal interpretations.

Mr McGrath said: What kind of sacred cow is out there in Montrose that you can be above the law and continue to be above the law?

The legislation has been repeatedly broken, the Tipperary TD added. It’s a rotten system and it won’t be fixed in RT, and you’ll get another big cash boost.

The government has agreed to give RT a 40m bailout after falling TV license sales.

The Department of Social Protection began to review the RT for misclassification of workers in 2020.

Head of HR Eimear Cusacksaid RT is engaging with the department.

We are making significant progress with them. We have intensified our engagement with them, she said.

Ms Cusack said RT was now holding weekly meetings with investigators from the department and had provided them with detailed information about people who worked for the broadcaster as contractors.

RTE is selected
Michael McGrath said the government was working on a new funding model for RT, as TV license sales fell by 27 million last year. (Photo: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie)

The department has made 128 decisions on suspected cases of false self-employment.

So far, in 86 of the cases it has been found that the workers were wrongly classified as contractors while working with RT.

RT appealed 25 of these decisions and withdrew a further 16 appeals against the department’s decision.

Minister of Finance Michael McGrath said the government is working on a new funding model for RT, as TV license sales fell by 27 million last year.

Photo: Terence O’Rourke. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/ RollingNews.ie

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