‘MEDIA WORKERS ARE LABORERS, TOO’: Journalists’ union calls for fair treatment of media workers

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

One of the country’s biggest unions of journalists commemorated Labor Day on Monday, May 1, by calling on the media industry to recognize their economic and labor rights.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) issued a statement expressing solidarity with workers, citing journalists’ own woes in seeking better pay and working conditions.

“Whether because we cover the Labor Day protests, are on duty on this holiday, or because we ourselves have experienced how difficult it has been to make ends meet with that we are paid for the amount of work we do, we remind ourselves this Labor Day that we are workers too,” they said in their statement.

They stressed that economic and labor rights as press freedom issues are in the same breath as harassment, censorship attempts, and other threats to media independence.

The statement was released ahead of the celebration of World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday, May 3.

“Many of us work long hours with no overtime, holiday and night differential pay. When disasters or calamities strike, many cover without hazard pay or insurance. Many still work without recognition, without the mandated benefits of regular workers, and even without proper work contracts,” NUJP said.

“Even in relatively safer environments like online newsrooms, many are expected to write as many as seven to ten stories a day while also producing social media and video content. We have been told to accept that media is a tiring profession and that our passion and our service to the public are payment enough.”

Despite wins in labor disputes with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and the passage of House Bill No. 454 (proposed Media Workers Welfare Act) in the House of Representatives, NUJP said these were not enough.

“[R]ecent wins at the [NLRC] and by employee unions at major newsrooms have shown that things can be better but often only when we make our demands heard,” they stated.

“While we acknowledge the Media Workers’ Welfare bill and other proposed legislation to improve our labor situation, we do not need to wait for Congress to start conversations in our newsrooms and offices on issues like pay, workload and our work conditions and how these can be improved,” they also said.

The most recent victory at the NLRC was that of Gab Villegas, wherein his former employer Daily Tribune was ordered to pay his pro-rated 13th-month pay for 2022 as well as attorney’s fees.

HB No. 454, meanwhile, would guarantee that media workers would be paid minimum wage or above, hazard pay in certain situations of coverage, insurance benefits, and security of tenure.

It was unanimously passed by the lower house on November 21, 2022, and remains pending with the Senate’s Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development committee chaired by Senator Jinggoy Estrada since November 29, 2022.