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Additional benefits for media workers urged

CAMARINES Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte on Sunday sought the enactment of a law that would provide workers in the media industry with security of tenure, hazard and overtime pay and other benefits enjoyed by regular employees.

House Bill (HB) 7820 or the proposed Media Workers’ Welfare Act aims to guarantee the rights of media workers to self-organization, and to create a safe, protected atmosphere conducive to their “productive, free, and fruitful” work, Villafuerte said.

“Media workers risk their own lives being exposed to the perils and hazards outdoor just so we can receive our needed information. It is unfortunate that the very same people behind it are usually the ones whose labor rights are ignored such as those pertaining to security of tenure, hazard pay, night shift differential pay and overtime pay, among others,” Villafuerte said.

“Hence, this measure seeks to ensure that media workers shall be provided with comprehensive benefits package at par with the current benefits enjoyed by those in the labor force both in government and the private sector,” he added.

Under HB 7820, media workers in entry-level positions shall receive the minimum monthly compensation determined by the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) or the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPBs), depending on which applies in his or her case.

A media worker shall be deemed a regular employee after six months of continuous employment, regardless of the nature of employment.

Villafuerte’s bill also guarantees that no worker shall be dismissed from one’s employment without just or authorized cause and without procedural due process.

“The computation of employment time shall be cumulative in cases where the employee is repeatedly engaged for shorter periods by the employer to avoid regularization,” HB 7820 stated.

Villafuerte has also proposed the grant of hazard pay of at least P500 per day to media workers assigned to dangerous areas, such as strife-torn or embattled zones, distressed or isolated stations, disease-infested areas or in areas declared under state of calamity ormemergency.

A News Media Tripartite Council being proposed in the bill may change or increase the minimum hazard pay, Villafuerte said.

Media workers in government or private media entities who are already enjoying similar benefits equal or superior to the minimum hazard pay shall no longer be entitled to such benefit.

Employers are also mandated under the bill to provide media workers with basic safety gear and equipment when they are assigned to dangerous areas.

The bill also grants overtime and night-differential pay to media workers as well as mandatory additional insurance benefits.

These insurance benefits include: 1) death benefit of P200,000 for each media worker who shall perish in the line of duty; 2) disability benefit of P200,000 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) reimbursement of actual medical expenses up to but not to exceed P100,000 for each media worker who shall be hospitalized or who shall require medical attendance for injuries sustained while in the line of duty.

Under the bill, any government fund obtained from taxpayer’s money intended to support the public information campaign of all government branches in the form of official ad placements, notices and the like, shall be deemed as “Public Information Fund.”

“Subject to existing laws, any media entity shall have equal opportunity and access to such fund through such measure or policy adopted by the government unit concerned specifically designed to ensure such equal access,” the bill states.

A media entity must show proof of full payment of all relevant local and national taxes, permits, fees and licenses and other charges to be entitled to the provisions stated in the bill.