The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading on Monday, January 18, a bill that would guarantee security of tenure and other benefits for media industry workers.

All 218 legislators voted in favor of House Bill (HB) No. 8140 or the proposed Media Workers’ Welfare Act.

“Tapos na ang panahong walang kasiguruhan ang isang taga-media sa kanyang trabaho. Hindi na rin puwedeng abusuhin ang kanyang kakayahan at karapatan. Hindi na rin siya puwedeng takutin na tatanggalin kahit anong oras,” said ACT-CIS Partylist Representative Rowena Niña Taduran, one of the principal authors of the bill.

“Marami pa rin kasi sa industriya ng media ang underpaid at kinokontrata lang ang serbisyo. Wala silang mga benefits at nanganganib na matanggal kahit anong oras. Kapag lumalabas at magko-cover, wala man lang sapat na gamit para sa proteksyon. This bill will be their shield,” she added.

Unjust labor conditions are a perennial problem in the local media industry, especially for television networks where the tenures of contractual workers – called talents or project workers, depending on the company hiring them – are dependent upon the duration of the show they are working for.

The bill was filed to address unjust labor conditions hounding the local media industry, especially in broadcast networks where workers are on contractual engagements, called talents or project workers. Their tenure depends upon the duration of the show where they are engaged with.

This system deprives workers job security and other mandated benefits.

HB 8140 defines media workers as “those who are legitimately engaged in news media practice, directly or indirectly, whether as a principal occupation or not.”

Under the bill, media companies will be required to regularize all their workers after six months of employment, whether they are connected to a program as a talent or not.

The bill would require media companies to pay their workers with the applicable minimum wage rate set by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board.

Media workers would also be entitled to overtime pay, night shift premiums, and coverage by the Social Security System, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and the Pag-ibig Fund.

Media companies will also be required to pay media workers at least P500 worth of hazard pay per day for employees who would be required to report for work in dangerous and hazardous situations like war zones, disease-infested locations, and areas under a state of calamity or emergency.

Media workers will also be provided insurance coverage: a P100,000 medical insurance benefit, a P200,000 benefit in case of total or partial disability from an injury suffered while working and a P200,000 death benefit.

The bill designates the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to monitor media companies’ compliance with the provisions of the proposed law.

The DOLE is also tasked to create News Media Tripartite Council where media workers and employers can agree upon “mutually beneficial” policies that will promote the interests of the media industry, discuss their programs and settle conflicts.

It still has a long way to go before it can become a law as its Senate counterpart, however, is still languishing at the committee level. Rommel F. Lopez