herald

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Ex-RTE star 'had to strike a blow' for over-65s

Valerie Cox
Valerie Cox

Former RTE stalwart Valerie Cox has said that losing her job because of her age was "the most appalling thing".

But Ms Cox said she's delighted that her successful Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) case, which saw RTE ordered to pay her €50,000, has been described as striking a blow against ageism in Ireland.

"I was very pleased with the outcome because I have always felt very strongly about ageism in Ireland. I encountered it very strongly and that's why I was so keen to get a result and that's why I took the case," she told the Herald.

"I had hoped for a positive result but I felt I had to strike a blow for both myself and for the over-65s.

"I think it's the most appalling thing. One day, you think everything's great, you're working on cutting edge stuff in a job you love and the next day, you're on the scrapheap.

"You have to go down and sign on at the dole office and it's such an undignified thing to do, as anyone who's had to do it will tell you."

She said she was "very put out" about the decision to end her contract with RTE and despite applying for an extension to it, she was turned down.

She was going through a "very stressful time" in her personal life at the time, given that her husband Brian was struck down with herpes viral encephalitis (HVE).

He lapsed into a coma and had to spend several months receiving treatment in hospital.

The ex-Radio 1 presenter, who worked as a roving reporter and also fronted What It Says In The Papers, had two contracts with the station.

Terminated

Her full-time contract had terminated in March 2016 when she turned 65 but she found out in December 2016 that her casual contract to front the early morning newspaper slot was also finished. She said that she was informed that this was down to her age.

This was despite there being two people over 65 working on the show at the time.

She said that she was offered €5,000 by RTE to settle the case before the WRC hearing but she refused the offer.

The WRC eventually ruled that Ms Cox had been discriminated against on the basis of her age when it came to the termination of her casual contract.

The ruling was described as a "landmark decision" in the Dail yesterday.

Labour party leader Brendan Howlin called on the Government to prioritise legislation which will remove the compulsory retirement age of 65 from many sectors of public service.

Welcoming the judgment, Tanaiste Simon Coveney said he hopes "it sends a signal out for many people in a similar situation to Valerie Cox".

Plans to remove the compulsory retirement age will come into effect "as soon as possible".

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