Eamon Dunphy: 'We have to come to terms with a new reality'

Broadcaster and pundit Eamon Dunphy has rowed in behind RTé staff angry over the "disproportionate" salaries of the station's highest-paid contract stars, and said he would welcome another move to reduce wages.

The outspoken former soccer player led the charge for pay cuts this time two years ago by taking a 10% reduction to his contracted salary and said he would do so again in order to "come to terms with a new reality".

His comments came as RTé staff around the country voted on whether or not to enter discussions with management over its breach of a commitment to reverse previous pay cuts.

Should those talks go ahead, inside sources have indicated that the inflated wages of Montrose celebrities will feature highly on the agenda.

After renewed calls for cuts to celebrities' salaries last week, Dunphy told the Sunday Tribune. "We want to try and create a society here that is holistic and we can't do that if some people are earning inflated salaries," he said. "In my own case I have no problem. In fact, I would be very happy to discuss my own remuneration."

Dunphy stressed that he was discussing his own position and that he was not calling on anyone else to follow suit. Nevertheless, his comments will put pressure on other highly-paid presenters to take pay cuts.

Before he took the 10% hit in January 2009, Dunphy's salary was estimated to be in the region of €320,000. "I think in the present environment it's not unreasonable that everything to do with salaries for people working in RTé, particularly those [contracted] sole traders, should be on the table. We have to come to terms with a new reality and I certainly would have no problem doing it. In fact I would welcome it," he said.

"We have to be mindful we are working for the taxpayer and the licence payer and that we should show as much solidarity as possible. If RTé came to me I would have no problem. It's a national emergency."

Meanwhile, RTé employees continued to vote last week on what further steps should be taken in the pay dispute.

Rank-and-file staff had pay cuts reviewed at the beginning of the year but an independent financial projection showed that the station stood to lose €30m in 2011, making the restoration of previous salaries virtually impossible.

Staff are angry that millions of euro in additional costs have been foisted on RTé management, making it impossible to reverse the wage cuts. These costs include contributions to TG4, pension payments and the delivery of digital terrestrial television.

An agreement had been in place that wage reductions would be reviewed, but there was never any guarantee those cuts would be reinstated at a specific time.