News / 27.11.2012

Freelance journalists and translators take action against translation firm BTI.

Linus Atarah

The industrial action is to advance the cause of over hundred audio-visual freelance translators, most of who are members of UFJ, who voluntarily resigned from BTI, in October in protest over low pay and poor condition of service. BTI is a subsidiary of Sweden-based Broadcast Text International.

The Unions have asked their members to boycott jobs from, as well cease doing overtime work at BTI which would be required to compensate for the work of the resigned audio-visual translators.

The audio-visual translators have previously had freelance contracts with broadcasting company MTV Media, but in October MTV Media sold its entire translation services to BTI who agreed to take on the translators.

BTI has refused to negotiate reasonable pay and condition of service with the resigned translators through their representatives, the Union of Journalists in Finland.

“The employer has not indicated any genuine interest to negotiate the conditions service of the professional translators. We already have an existing condition of service agreement and the employer is not even willing to take it as a basis for negotiations”, says Petri Savolainen, Director responsible for workers’ interest at UFJ.

Before their resignation, the fees and conditions of service of the audio-visual translators were in line with, and defined by the terms of service agreement applied to MTV and the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s (YLE) journalists and translators.

However, the agreement of the newly transferred translators in BTI will expire in February and according to them, BTI has consistently stone-walled their calls for new talks which would clarify their future with the new employer. BTI has instead offered new salary proposals to a section of the translators which are lower than the accepted minimum in the industry in spite of increased workload, according to (UJF).

According to the resigned audio-visual translators, BTI has offered them 2,800 euros a month. It is less than 3,040 euros earned by their colleagues at MTV and, while translators at MTV have to produce 17minutes of translated screen text a day, BTI translators are required to produce 30 minutes of screen text in an equal amount of time.

The Unions’ embargo declared on Tuesday is the latest of a series of trade union solidarity actions in support of the resigned translators.

Over one hundred freelance translators working with various media houses signed a resolution last week in support of the struggle of the freelance audio-visual translators. Also, the Association of Programme Workers of MTV (MOT), former colleagues of the audio-visual translators have also passed a resolution in support, calling on the management of the MTV Media to find a constructive solution and one that serves the interests of all parties.

Similar solidarity action has come from translators in the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) who passed a resolution on Monday raising concerns over the future of the nearly 400 audio-visual translators in the sector.

The resolution, signed by 16 permanent and 87 freelance translators of YLE also deplored the policies of multinational translation firms who they say, pay rock-bottom fees and called on them to abide by negotiated collective agreements.

According to the YLE translators, the situation of audio-visual translators – too much workload and poor salaries – has already begun to take its toll on the quality of translated programmes.

Jarkko Lehtola, a freelance translator who also stopped working for BTI in protest, says errors can be detected in some of the translations of BTI for MTV televisions channels. Lehtola points out for instance, that the reading pace in translations for the Emmerdale television series is so fast that older people cannot keep up with them. Translated texts are also omitted in the Madventure series and, the X Factor programme has also had technical problems due to break-ups in translation, says Lehtola.

Kari Eskola, labour lawyer of Akava Special Branches – member union of Confederation of Unions for Managerial Staff (AKAVA) representing university and other higher professional level of education – says the situation of the audio-visual translators has escalated and has become a threat to the whole profession.

”We want that the highly educated translators do their demanding work on sustainable basis. Paying rock-bottom wages in the sector must stop”, says, Eskola.

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