Media Workers Welfare Act

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THE CONSTITUTION guarantees the freedom of the press. It recognizes the invaluable role of the free press to a vibrant, working democracy and to the overall development of our society. Journalists and media workers risk their life and limb to perform their duty to inform the public and deliver the meaningful stories that need to be known. At many times, they have proven to be front-liners and first responders to various emergencies like calamities, accidents, and war, to bring the condition of the affected areas and its residents. Especially at this time of the pandemic, their work bears an added risk of contracting the disease, and extra burden brought by strict travel restrictions and health protocols.

Moreover, their profession becomes especially crucial to counter the proliferation of fake news and disinformation in this digital age and massive use of social media platforms. This pending bill, Senate Bill No. 2021or Media Workers Welfare Act authored by Senator Ramon Bong Revilla, seeks to promote and ensure the welfare of all media workers and media entities in the private sector such as the field reporters, news writers, cameramen, photographers, among others, through institutionalized social security benefits, insurance coverage, hazard pay, security of tenure and minimum compensation. It aims to respond to the various labor issues reported in the print, broadcast and online media industry, and protect the basic rights of journalists as workers. The measure also seeks to create the News Media Tripartite Council which will serve as a platform among different stakeholders where media workers and their employers can come together to discuss mutually beneficial policies and resolve their issues.

This Act shall have the following objectives: 1. Ensure that media workers shall, at the minimum, be paid the wages, allowances and benefits provided by law to workers; 2. Uphold the rights and responsibilities of the media workers in the dissemination of information and public communication; and 3. Promote an atmosphere that is conducive to a productive, free, and fruitful media work.

Moreover, media workers shall not receive less than the applicable minimum wage rate prescribed by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board, and shall be entitled to overtime pay and night shift premiums, as well as other forms of compensation provided by Presidential Decree No. 442, as amended, otherwise known as the “Labor Code of the Philippines” and other related laws and issuances. Media workers shall also be covered by the Social Security System (SSS), the Home Development Mutual Fund or the PagIBIG Fund, and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) upon employment. The payment of monthly contributions shall be jointly shared by the media worker and the employer, when applicable, in accordance with existing rules and regulations. Media workers shall also be entitled to retirement benefits as provided under Republic Act No. 11199, otherwise known as the “Social Security Act of 2018.”

It is further stipulated in the proposed measure that media workers required to physically report to work in dangerous areas such as strife-torn or embattled areas, distressed or isolated stations, disease-infested areas or in areas declared under a state of calamity or emergency for the duration thereof which expose them to great danger, contagion, radiation, volcanic activity or eruption, occupational risks or perils to life as determined by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) shall be compensated with a hazard pay in the minimum amount of Five Hundred Pesos (P500.00) per day, with no diminution. The base amount of the hazard pay of media workers may be increased as decided upon by the News Media Tripartite Council created under Section 14 of this Act.

Employers shall also provide media workers covering events in dangerous areas with basic safety gear and equipment such as bulletproof vests and helmets, first-aid kits, fire protection jackets, face shields, medical grade protective equipment, harnesses, safety shoes, and life vests. Employers shall also provide mandatory additional insurance coverage to media workers as follows: 1) Death benefit of Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (P300,000.00) for each media worker who shall perish in the line of duty; 2) Disability benefit of up to Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Pesos (P250,000.00) for each media worker who shall suffer total or partial disability whether permanent or temporary, arising from any injury sustained in the line of duty; and 3) Medical insurance benefit for each media worker of up to One Hundred Fifty Thousand Pesos (P150,000.00)

Media workers shall be provided with security of tenure, deemed as regular employees after six (6) months from the start of employment, regardless of the nature of employment. However, the said six (6) month period shall be computed cumulatively if a media worker is repeatedly engaged for shorter periods. An employer shall not terminate the services of a media worker except for a just or authorized cause, and with the observance of procedural due process.

All labor-related disputes shall be elevated to the DOLE regional office which has jurisdiction over the workplace. The DOLE shall monitor compliance with the provisions of this Act and violations of the provisions of this Act shall be subject to applicable penalties provided in President Decree No. 442, as amended and other related laws and issuances. The DOLE shall initiate the creation of the News Media Tripartite Council which shall serve as a link among various stakeholders, provide a platform where media workers and employers can agree upon mutually beneficial policies that will promote the interests of the media industry, and serve as an avenue to express their aspirations, discuss their programs or settle conflicts.