After Geena Lisa, Saartje Vandendriessche and Tomas De Soete also left VRT

VRT started the big round of layoffs this week. This fits within the cuts that the public broadcaster has to implement from the Flemish government. During the management agreement 2020-2025, the broadcaster must structurally use 25.1 million euros less public funds. And for that, 68 jobs must be lost. It was eventually reduced to 61 and at Reyerslaan they could confirm that 50 employees on Tuesday and Wednesday (good for 41 full-time positions, ed.) have been told that it ends here for them.

The round of layoffs at VRT particularly affects One and Canvas. Of the 61 naked dismissals, around thirty are on the two public television channels. Canvas is particularly hard hit: every fifth employee has to leave, and almost the entire online editorial office has been shut down. The remaining employees will be transferred to the digital platform VRT Max. Various supporting VRT services must also let staff go. At Connections, where they make TV spots, around a quarter of the layoffs have taken place.

The employees who are thanked for their services are mainly program creators. In front of the screens, but also behind: directors, editors, production staff, technicians, graphic artists and mechanics. For example, three editors of One magazine were appointed Everyone knew fired, and a director and editor-in-chief The insights. Annick Ruyts, who announced his exit earlier this week, is currently working as editor-in-chief Only Elvis survives on canvas.

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VRT CEO Frederik Delaplace and Flemish media minister Benjamin Dalle. © BELGIUM

Also three BVs

On Thursday, it became known that at least three BVs did not survive the round of savings at VRT. The first presenter, Geena Lisa (50), announced that she had been fired. She has worked for VRT since 1992 and presented the popular Mirage. In recent years, she was seen very little on screen and worked as an internal coach. “I am leaving VRT after 22 years and I am touched by the many reactions,” says the presenter in a reaction on social media. “I am grateful for the many wonderful years, I have many stories of opportunities, beautiful friendships and crazy adventures. Today, VRT is a company in change, and it goes hand in hand with the departure of people and the arrival of others.”

ALSO READ. Geena Lisa fired from VRT after 22 years: “Touched by the many reactions”

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A few hours later, Saartje Vandendriessche (47) also announced that she is part of the savings. “It is true that I no longer work for VRT as an employee,” she tells our editors. “There have been talks with VRT for a long time about converting my salaried status to self-employed status. This interruption of this employee status is therefore no surprise.” Vandendriessche emphasizes that both VRT and herself are still open to future collaborations. “In the future, I will definitely continue to spend my time and energy on the topics that are close to me heart, and which still makes me really excited. At VRT or through other channels.” The 47-year-old was an announcer on One from 2005 to 2015 and was a welcome face in programs such as The swing palace and The last show. She presented, among other things, on the VRT channels Flanders holiday country, Down to the man and Sarah in the woods.

ALSO READ. Saartje Vandendriessche (47) also fired by VRT: “Still open to future collaborations”

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Not much later, it turned out that TV producer and radio voice Tomas De Soete (46) had to leave public television. This makes him the third BV whose permanent collaboration with VRT has been interrupted. This is confirmed to our editors.

ALSO READ. Also the end of the story for Tomas De Soete (46) on VRT


The unions have no understanding of the redundancies, but also of the VRT management’s approach. “The question that dominates everyone involved is: Why?”, says Clem Robyns from the staff association Everyone VRT. “Why did they really have to leave? There is no answer to that. Nor were they clear in their conversations during the round of layoffs. The management says: You do not fit into the new course of VRT. Or: You are not flexible enough.”

“What bothers us is that for twenty years or more VRT had a personnel policy that discouraged people from expanding their horizons,” says Robyns. “It was not allowed to expand your field of work or extend it to another domain. It suited the bosses better that you performed the same function as long as possible. That the current management now says that their staff is not flexible enough is a direct indictment of everything that has happened in recent decades.”

“If we have to draw one conclusion, it is that this kind of personnel policy should end. People were constrained, almost forced to keep doing what they were doing. And it is now being used against them. That must change.”

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Carlos Van Hoeymissen (ACV) says that the unions will closely monitor that the workload on the smaller group of employees does not increase. “We have asked the management to quickly notify us of which programs are no longer being made. It is not computers that make programs, but people. Fewer people mean fewer programs. We will quickly know where the management will cut programming. But there is more: We have tools ready to measure the workload. We have to interview people on the floor, and we will follow the absence very closely, because it is a first indication of increased work pressure.”

Van Hoeymissen says the unions have done everything in the negotiations to reduce the number of layoffs that were originally planned. This has been achieved, among other things, by letting employees fill internal vacancies. And with one incentive for older workers to take early retirement. “But you should not imagine an early pension at 58, as in the past. It is no longer possible. The government now wants civil servants to do away with the trip altogether. VRT employees are civil servants. But VRT still has a separate statute that allowed the government to turn a blind eye to employees who are only a few months away from their retirement, to retire anyway.”

According to Van Hoeymissen, there will be no more redundancies this year. “Everyone who has to go has been informed on Monday and Tuesday.”

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