Lawyers for Fair City star Tony Tormey have handed further submissions in the veteran actor’s employment rights claim against RTÉ.
djudicating officer Breiffni O’Neill was told this morning that submissions on behalf of Mr Tormey, who plays ‘Paul Brennan’ in the long-running soap opera, have now been filed into the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
Mr O’Neill adjourned the matter to March 22 for an update on the case. Mr Tormey was not required to be present for this morning’s brief hearing at Lansdowne House, Dublin 4.
During a case management hearing at WRC headquarters last December, Mr O’Neill said tax records would have to be produced if Mr Tormey was to make out a claim for status as an employee starting on New Year’s Day 2004.
Mr Tormey, who has played the character on the flagship soap since 1989, claims he acquired the right to a contract of ‘indefinite duration’ in 2004, when new law came into force in the area.
In a complaint under the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2004, Mr Tormey is seeking recognition as an employee and compensation for an alleged breach of the legislation.
Mr Tormey’s lawyers have said they are prepared to open up 18 years of tax records in his employment rights claim against RTÉ.
At a previous hearing, Mr Tormey’s lawyers said they intended to call the former executive producer of broadcaster’s flagship soap to give evidence on the level of control exerted over the actor – whom RTÉ maintains was always an “independent contractor” and has no entitlement to a permanent contract.
In legal filings on behalf of the complainant opened to the pre-hearing, reference was made to contacts between former Fair City executive producer Niall Mathews and another TV producer in 2003, when an inquiry was made as to Mr Tormey’s availability.
Mr Mathews stated that the complainant was “not permitted to work elsewhere on TV”, the filings state.
“I’ll need to hear his evidence,” Mr O’Neill said of the now-retired soap producer.
Mr Tormey took in sums between €99,000 and €150,000 a year in 2016 and 2017 – earning some €4,500 for a shooting week on the soap opera with an average of 31 weeks of production a year, the tribunal previously heard.
Conor Bowman BL, who appeared for the complainant instructed by Liston & Co Solicitors, said that his client’s contractual terms had not changed over the decades, but that there had been less work offered to him during the Covid-19 pandemic.
On a previous date, counsel for RTÉ Mairead McKenna, instructed by Arthur Cox, said: “One of the issues in correspondence is a Revenue audit of Mr Tormey’s tax affairs and a determination that they left something to be desired.”
References to the audit sent by Mr Tormey’s solicitors indicated “very significant earnings and a very significant income tax liability” over a two-year period, Ms McKenna said.
She said RTÉ wanted the full details of the audit produced to the tribunal in order to “get under the bonnet” and examine “other earnings that we believe Mr Tormey was engaged in”.
Mr Bowman sad the broadcaster “mis-characterised” his client as self-employed and knew there was a claim to a contract of indefinite duration at least as early as 2017, when it received a report prepared by Eversheds on the employment status of workers being treated as contractors, including some of the Fair City cast.
At a previous hearing it was agreed that the pending ruling of the Supreme Court in an appeal by Domino’s Pizza franchisee Karshan (Midlands) Ltd over the tax treatment of food delivery drivers – and whether they should be treated as contractors or employees – was likely to have a bearing on the case.
Similar claims are being pursued before the WRC by Mr Tormey’s Fair City co-stars George McMahon, who plays ‘Mondo O’Connell’, and Jim Bartley, who plays ‘Bela Doyle’.