Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Fury over BBC's 'revolving door' as 24 paid-off staff walk back in

Miriam O'Reilly refused to be gagged by the BBC after winning a landmark case

One in four staff handed generous redundancy packages by BBC Northern Ireland was later rehired by the broadcaster.

Some were back working within six months on freelance or short-term contracts.

Critics have described it as money-wasting "on an industrial scale".

However, the BBC insisted it was a cost-effective means of hiring the right people for the job.

The details emerged after a Freedom of Information request from the Belfast Telegraph.

The BBC confirmed that 97 members of staff left through redundancy between 2010 and May this year.

Of those, 24 returned to work with the broadcaster.

Eighteen were back working within a year – 13 of them within six months.

The other six were back at work within 36 months.

The BBC declined to provide specific information about the contracts which the rehired staff were given.

However, it said the staff were re-employed on a short-term basis on either freelance or casual contracts.

It insisted no staff were re-employed on a continuing contract.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Conservative MP Philip Davies, who sits on Westminster's Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee, accused the BBC of wasting licence fee payers' money.

"This is yet another example of the BBC wasting money on an industrial scale," he said.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said it was unlikely to be tolerated elsewhere in the public sector.

"If anyone else in the public sector was to either make someone redundant and then recruit the same person back again, or be made redundant and return to their former employer, unless there were extenuating circumstances, it would be deemed highly inappropriate," he said.

"The licence fee payer needs to know what are the circumstances behind these people's return, and what are the sums involved."

The BBC said employees are made redundant on the basis that no foreseeable work is available in the future for them.

However, it said the nature of broadcasting means requirements for work can change within short time periods.

However, freelancers sometimes enjoy higher rates of pay compared to full-time staff because of a potential lack of job security, meaning some of those rehired may be drawing the equivalent of more than their previous salary.

Mr Campbell, who has called for more transparency on BBC spending in the past, said he was concerned that significant amounts of licence fee payers' money may have been spent.

"I would have concerns that some people were on very substantial salaries, received a significant sum in terms of their redundancy payment and then returned for an equally handsome wage," he added.

This newspaper investigated the matter after being alerted by a BBC insider, who had raised concerns about the practice.

"There is a system in the BBC of people getting their redundancy and coming back to staff jobs or contracts through the revolving door, as it's known internally," they said.

In response, a BBC spokesperson said: "The nature of broadcasting means that requirement for work can change within short periods and specialist freelancers, who may be former employees, engaged on short-term contracts can be a cost-effective means of providing the skills required by the BBC as the need arises."

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