133 more subtitlers join those who resigned from Broadcast Text in demanding better working conditions to the audiovisual translation field.
Freelance translators of the audiovisual translation agencies have had enough
Since MTV Media outsourced its translation operations to Broadcast Text International Oy's subsidiary BTI International Oy on October 1st 2012, Finland's audiovisual translation field in its entirety is in danger of being sucked into a vortex of insufficient salaries from which there is no return. We who have worked as freelancers for the audiovisual translation agencies know how hard it is to make a living with the current fees provided by our employers - it is practically impossible to build a lifelong career on them. Therefore we want to express our support to the translators who were outsourced by MTV Media and who resigned from BTI International Oy.
For over ten years now Broadcast Text International Oy has paid its freelance translators fees that do not enable subtitling to be done in a reasonable timeframe and in a meticulous way. The deadlines are so tight that even the long programs are expected to be finished within 24 hours or even faster, even though a finalised translation requires considerably more time due the background work required to find linguistic equivalents in the target language. This inevitably influences the quality the employers and clients are demanding, while at the same time the working conditions of the translators are far from reasonable. The average salaries of highly educated people are way beyond our reach with these fees even though translating is considered to be specialist work.
In addition, most freelance translators have been forced to become entrepreneurs, which means all the entrepreneur's labour costs are paid by the translator. Thus the entrepreneur's risk has been fully outsourced from the agency to us translators without any reimbursement. Furthermore, when all the translators' copyrights that can be relinquished are claimed by the agency without any reimbursement, they are then able to resell the translator's work in perpetuity while the translator is left empty handed. This means the working pace is extremely tight and unhealthy often requiring working days in excess of 10 hours as well as weekends in order for the translator to make a living that is on a par to current average income levels in Finland.
The translators have also been systematically kept in the dark about their colleagues by e.g. withholding all contact information, so that any attempts at organising the translator community to discuss the working conditions could be inhibited. The organisation of the translators is naturally the first step of any effort to create common and permanent agreements about the working conditions. However, the Finnish Audiovisual Translators’ forum (www.av-kaantajat.fi), formed four years ago, and particularly this autumn’s events have united the vast majority of all Finnish audiovisual translators, regardless of their employer. This development has fostered a wide-ranging discussion about the fair and unfair employers within the audiovisual translation field.
Broadcast Text International is far from being the only translation agency trampling on the working conditions. This unfortunate category contains a plethora of agencies including e.g. SDI Media, PrimeText, Softitler and many other international translation agencies. In 2010 the negotiations for a collective labour agreement of audiovisual translation agencies offered a glimmer of hope that the dire situation could be rectified, but very soon it became apparent that Broadcast Text International was not willing to negotiate at all. BTI simply stated that Yhtyneet-agreement, the collective agreement at MTV Media and YLE which served as the basis of the negotiations, is so utopian that the negotiations are pointless.
SDI Media and Pre-Text also took part in the collective labour agreement negotiations of 2010, and the former withdrew from the negotiations just before the signing of the agreement. Pre-Text is the only completely Finnish agency and also the only one to sign the collective labour agreement. Freelancers at the other agencies were immensely disappointed, since they had expressed their wishes for better terms quite openly and on multiple occasions. The agencies, however, have never reacted to these wishes with anything else than empty promises and delaying tactics.
A collective labour agreement would benefit all the players of the audiovisual translation field, but such an agreement seems to be an anathema to the agencies. Collective labour agreements are, however, a common feature of the Finnish labour market, and we cannot see such an agreement hindering the agencies. When the working conditions of the audiovisual translators are secured to a reasonable level, the agencies will no longer compete on how cheaply they can get somebody to deliver their clients’ translations, and instead they will compete with the quality of their translation teams. It should never be forgotten that demanding work requires both reasonable amount of time and reasonable pay.
Signed by 133 subtitlers:
Pirjo Katarina Leppänen