Sotto pushes for regularization, overtime pay, other benefits for media workers

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 11 2020 08:39 PM

MANILA -- Senate President Vicente Sotto III has filed a bill seeking to provide a "comprehensive benefits package" for media workers in recognition of the industry's "critical role... in shaping government policies and public opinion."

Among the benefits for media workers under Sotto's Senate Bill No. 1820 are the guarantee of regularization after 6 months, and hazard pay for journalists who "physically report for work in dangerous areas."

"At times when reliable and accurate information is crucial, such as today amid the menacing health impacts of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, media workers have set aside all fear and reason and have gone the extra mile to gather facts and figures to make the public fully aware of what is happening in their government and communities," Sotto said in a statement.

"They bridge and connect the people and their public leaders... Sapat lamang na pagtuunan sila ng pansin ng gobyerno at tapatan ang serbisyong kanilang ginagawa para sa ating bayan," he said.

(...It is just for the government to give them due attention and give them benefits for the service they render to our country.)

Under the proposal, media workers will be entitled to the following:

- Minimum compensation based on the National Wage and Productivity Commission;

- Guaranteed regularization after "6 months of continuous employment," including cases where "the employee is repeatedly engaged for shorter periods by the employer";

- At least P500 hazard pay for each day a media worker is deployed to "work in dangerous areas" like war zones and typhoon-hit locations;

- Provision of safety gear during hazardous work assignments;

- Guaranteed overtime pay for workers who "render service beyond the normal 8 hours a day";

- P200,000 death benefit for those who "perish in the line of duty";

- Up to P200,000 disability benefit for those who "suffer total or partial disability...from any injury sustained in the line of duty";

- Reimbursement of medical expenses up to P100,000 for those who will be injured in the line of duty. 

Additional responsibilities and liabilities are also given to media companies under the proposed Media Workers' Welfare Act.

Under the proposal, media companies will have to be "solidarily liable" for all contents released under its name, including those produced by blocktimers and advertisers.

"They own and govern the station, although they are not usually liable for the contents if so manifested," Sotto said in a text message to reporters.

"The public’s need for quality, informative news can only be satisfied when our media workers feel safe and secure while in selfless pursuit of news and information," he said.

A media company who fails to give the proposed benefits will be fined at least P30,000 for every employee who did not receive the special benefits intended for media workers.

The bill also creates a "News Media Tripartite Council" -- a panel composed of media stakeholders -- to give workers a "platform to craft policy decisions that will affect the industry as a whole."