News / 10.02.2011

Agreements for av-translators shaping up

This year is exactly a quarter of century ago that Maija Rantanen began work as an audio-visual translator. Rantanen translates among others, MTV3’s Martha Stewart Show and nature documentary for Finnish Broadcasting Company, YLE.

Rantanen and her colleagues have had enough market especially after the introduction of digital television brought additional new channels.

“The years 2007-2009 were hectic. Now I have had to reduce the amount of work because by neck, fingers and back are aching. Tight deadlines are stressful. However, I have had commensurate pay for the work and good treatment”, says Rantanen.

Her remuneration is determined by the joint freelance workers agreement between MTV3 and YLE. Separate agreements linked to that agreement guarantees that a major portion of translation is done by permanent freelancers in under the terms of the joint agreement.

Yet within the last years Rantanen has followed with concern changes in the translation agencies whose activities are not governed by service conditions agreements.

Especially the last 14 months have been changing times. In December 2009 TV4 transferred all of its translation work to Broadcast International whose, pay according to survey, is at the tail end of incomes in the sector.

The bid was a loss to Finnish company Pre-Text which earlier did a large bulk of TV4’s translations. According to the Union of Journalists in Finland, 60 people lost their jobs in Pre-Text, that is, a fifth of Finland’s audio-visual translators.

Last spring office translators began to organize in order to have a basic collective bargaining agreements in the sector. The result was noticed by 150 new members of audio-visual translators in the Union of Journalists in Finland.

During the same spring the Journalists Union, the union of translators and interpreters as (SKTL) well as specialist translators under the Confederation of Union of Professionals began negotiations on a binding collective bargaining agreement. The goal was salary levels corresponding to those in the joint agreement between YLE and MTV3. Finland’s big translation agencies, Pre-Text, SDI Media and Broadcast Text were called to the negotiations table. Pre-Text and SDI gladly joined the negotiations: they were in support of a general service conditions agreement even before TV4’s bid.

Broadcast Text International (BTI) withdrew from the negotiations in May. Executive Director Björn Andersson said in a press conference that the starting point of the Union of Journalists was unrealistic.

BTI also justified their withdrawal from the negotiations by arguing that a majority of its translators are working as sole entrepreneurs and therefore their fees cannot be determined by a collective agreement.

Maija Rantanen was at the negotiations as member of the board. She is especially troubled about how certain translation bureaus benefit from student labour. Many young people want to work in the sector at whatever price and do not necessarily recognise that they are being underpaid.

“People who have just completed their studies are forced to become entrepreneurs. What kind of entrepreneurship is that if the one commissioning the work determines the fees and other conditions? The fees are small and from that one has to pay for one’s own pensions”, say Rantanen.

According to trade unions, falling income levels is transforming the audiovisual translation sector into a temporary employment sector. It has been revealed by job surveys that an underpaid translator easily moves into other jobs.

“When one has studied five to six years as a translator, translating for television is attractive. One might think that it will become easier. But older translators have testified that with age, works becomes slower. More and more people are taking note of issues that need taking not of”, says Rantanen.

According to Rantanen, from viewers’ feedback translators are considered humble.

“Every sector has viewers who notice even small mistakes. For instance, military translation is a stumbling block for female translators. Feedback easily comes from those”.

In January audiovisual translators expressed concern over YLE’s translations bid. YLE has outsourced part of its translation division, to be done by translation bureaus. One hundred and thirty–five translators signed a petition calling on YLE to offer fair criteria for outsourcing its translation division.

Collective bargaining agreement rules could not yet be demanded because negotiations were still going on. The bid offer ended at the end of January.

Translated and edited by Linus Atarah

Original story:

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