THE House of Representatives wants better working conditions for people involved in reporting the news.
The House approved on third and final reading the proposed Media Workers’ Welfare Act, which seeks to ensure that media personnel are protected, secured, and well-compensated.
It is also intended to encourage media workers to be truthful and responsible sharers of information and to promote an atmosphere conducive to productive, free, and fruitful media work.
The media workers’ benefits
The bill states that media workers shall not receive less than the applicable minimum wage prescribed by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board.
They shall also be entitled to overtime pay and night shift premiums, as well as other forms of compensation provided by the Labor Code of the Philippines.
The bill states as well that media workers must be covered by the Social Security System, Pag-Ibig Fund, and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation upon employment. The media worker and employer shall share the payment of monthly contributions.
It further says that there must be hazard pay for media workers who are required to report physically to dangerous areas, such as those under strife, infected with disease, or experiencing calamities, which expose them to great danger, occupational risks, and perils to life.
The hazard pay is a minimum of P500 per day, with no diminution. The base amount may be increased as decided upon by the News Media Tripartite Council.
Employers must also provide the media workers covering events in dangerous areas with basic safety gear such as bulletproof vests and helmets, first-aid kits, fire protection jackets, medical grade protective equipment, harnesses, and life vests.
Moreover, the bill states that employers shall provide media workers with additional insurance coverage.
These shall consist of P200,000 death benefit for each media worker who will die in the line of duty; disability benefit of up to P200,000 for each worker who shall suffer total or partial ability due to an injury sustained while working; and medical insurance benefit of up to P100,000 for each media worker.
Media workers shall be deemed as regular employees six months from the start of employment, regardless of the nature of employment, according to the proposed law.
The six months shall be computed cumulatively if the media worker is repeatedly engaged for short periods.
When it comes to liability, the bill states that media entities shall be responsible for all contents released under their name.
Owners of media entities or franchise holders shall be liable for claims arising from gross negligence, malicious acts, and violation of laws in connection with the work of blocktimers and media workers, regardless of the nature of engagement.
This is unless the owners or franchise holders are able to prove that due diligence was exercised or that the fault could be attributed solely to the block timer or media worker.
The bill states that failure to comply with the provisions of the measure will be subject to applicable penalties provided in the Labor Code.
The bill received 252 affirmative votes and zero objections and abstentions when it was approved on third reading on Monday.
Similar bills are pending in the Senate and are still at the committee level.
Photo credit: PNA