Letter to DG & RTE Board.

You will all be aware that for some time RTÉ does not supply us, the Retired Staff Association (RTERSA) with contact details – names and addresses – when they send us the membership fees every month. As a result it is impossible to update changes. If people have similar names – confusion. We do not have everyone’s postal address from pre GDPR days. Many, but far from complete. We do have a few hundred email addresses with are ideal. If you are a member reading this and you have not sent us your email / updated postal address please do so.

Our professional advice is that there is no problem in RTÉ including contact details. Consequently we have written to the Director General and RTÉ Board (formerly known as the RTÉ Authority)




28th September

Dear Director General, Chair & Members of the RTÉ Board,

It is with some reluctance that I write to you. I suspect you have enough on your plate at present. I am chair of the RTÉ retired staff association. (RTERSA). Over the years, as staff retired they were invited to sign up for membership and to agree the modest fee per month deducted from salary to be paid to the RTESA. Apart from the monetary side of this the real benefit lay in the fact that we had a monthly list of active members together with their contact details. Being able to contact members is clearly most important. Being notified of deaths is even more so. Unfortunately with the arrival of GDPR, the management of the RTÉ superannuation fund chose to interpret the legislation in a particularly restricted form. Now they supply us with a list of names only. No contact details. Attempts to reach a solution have fallen on deaf ears.

Earlier this year I sought professional advice on the matter from two experts on GDPR. One was Karlin Lillington, Irish Times and a former member of the RTÉ Board. I quote with her permission:

“I can’t understand why GDPR would or should be an issue here. If RTE facilitates the sign-up process on retirement, and enables and manages the deduction, it should be able to facilitate contact with the individuals. Perhaps this would mean a future addition to the sign-up form, which would have the individuals give you an address at that time? Then you could maintain the address list yourselves. RTE should also be able to contact current members and request they give permission to pass on a contact address. RTE has in-house lawyers who should be able to advise a way to manage this. To me, it makes little sense that RTE would deduct money for your association but not allow you an obvious way of contacting those whose interests you represent.

I am not sure if you recall, but I was a member of the RTE board for five and a half years, from 2009-2014. If you are discussing this issue further with RTE, feel free to mention that a former board member feels surely there should be a simple solution to this, not least as retiring RTE employees have consented to the deduction specifically to go to your association, thus becoming members, and you quite clearly have an obligation to maintain communications with those members.”

The second GDPR expert was equally perplexed and has offered to take the matter up professionally. However, in the interests of civilised non combative relations, I subsequently wrote to the Chairman of the RTÉ superannuation scheme and proposed that he include in his annual letter to all members (whereby they sign a proof that they have not departed this life), an added note inviting retired staff to authorise RTÉ to share contact details with the RTERSA.

Not only was this not done, but my letter received no acknowledgment whatsoever. Simple bad manners and discourteous to all retired staff. I have to ask you Director General and the RTÉ Authority if this is an appropriate response worthy of RTÉ?

While I have this opportunity, I would be remiss if I did not inform the RTÉ Board of a few important facts which profoundly affect the lives of former employees. The formation of Raidió Teilifís Éireann in 1961 had its roots in recruiting then members of the former Posts and Telegraphs section of the Civil Service together with the promise of continuity of conditions. Subsequently all employees were not allowed to pay an A stamp. The mandatory D stamp means that most RTÉ retired staff have no entitlement to a State Pension and are solely dependent on the RTÉ Defined Benefit Scheme. As a consequence, we have had no increase in pension for over 13 years. None. Not because the Scheme is unable to pay. It is in rude good health, but Catch 22 is that RTÉ Defined Benefit Retirement cannot pay a cent of an increase without the blessing of the Minister of Finance/ Public Expenditure. The application for 1% was refused after a delay of 2 years and the current application for a 2% increase is still being considered since January. The reasons given are always opaque and inevitably suggest concerns about the burden on the fund. Repeated reports from independent, reputable actuaries count for nothing. The RTÉ Defined Benefit trustees have explicitly stated that they can well afford to pay regular, modest increases. But the answer from Government is always NO.

Since 2008, the State pension has increased 16% with another increase likely soon.

We are talking here about our deferred salaries. Not a cent burden on the central funds. It is worth noting that Public Service pensions are linked to current salaries.

Paradoxically, RTÉ’s own request to Government for permission to transfer the Management Costs from the Sponsor (RTÉ) to the Superannuation Fund looks like getting the go ahead according our own informed sources. This will cost the Fund approximately €30 million over its lifetime. Amazingly the Fund that cannot pay any increase in Pensions, can manage this burden from the Sponsor.

Contrary to popular opinion, RTÉ pensions have nothing in common with celebrity salaries and the imagined glamour of Television. We are talking about ordinary working people who had very modest salaries as secretaries, security men, carpenters, plumbers, vision mixers, studio operatives, journalists, designers, and, of course, spouses on 50% of their partner’s pension.

Best wishes.

Tony O’Connor