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House OKs bill on better pay, security of tenure for media workers

The House of Representatives on Monday, January 18, approved a bill that would guarantee security of tenure and better benefits for all workers in the media industry.

As the House resumed its session for 2021 on Monday, a total of 218 legislators voted in favor of House Bill (HB) No. 8140 or the proposed Media Workers' Welfare Act on its 3rd and final reading. No other lawmaker voted against the bill or abstained from the vote. 

It’s still a long way to go before the bill becomes a law. The Senate version is still pending at the committee level.

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.

This talent system deprives workers of job security and other law-mandated benefits. Major networks like GMA-7 and even the now-shutdown ABS-CBN have faced various labor cases over the years.

But if HB 8140 is passed into law, media companies would be required to regularize all their workers after 6 months, regardless of the nature of their employment. 

The 6 months would be computed cumulatively if the employee is repeatedly engaged by the company for shorter periods.

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

HB 8140 would bar media companies from compensating their workers below 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 Pag-ibig Fund, and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation. 

Those who would be required to physically report for work in dangerous areas like war zones, disease-infested locations, and areas under a state of calamity or emergency would be mandated to receive at least P500 worth of hazard pay per day. 

The bill also sets insurance coverage for media workers in cases of death and disability. Under the measure, a media worker would be granted a P200,000 death benefit, and he or she stands to receive up to P200,000 in case of total or partial disability arising from an injury while working.

The bill also sets a medical insurance benefit for media workers up to P100,000.

HB 8140 would require the Department of Labor and Employment to create the News Media Tripartite Council, which would become a platform for employers and media workers to agree upon “mutually beneficial” policies.

Proponents of the bill include ACT-CIS Representatives Niña Taduran, Jocelyn Tulfo, and Eric Yap.

“The workers in the media sector are always the first to report on what is happening in our country, and it’s a tireless job since it’s their duty to deliver the news to the people," said House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna. "The media plays an important role during a pandemic and times of calamities so it will be easier to know the status of our countrymen and to determine who among them needs help,” Zarate said in Filipino. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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