Subtitlers from audiovisual translation agencies join the cause

14.11.2012

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:
Ilona Ahlgren
Anne Aho
Solja Ahola
Pilvi Ahonen
Mikko Alapuro
Taru Alin
Juha Arola
Niko Astikainen
Katja Aulavuori
Sanna Autere
Jani Bohm
Maaret Dufva
Jonna Elomaa
Elina Eskola
Hamid Guedra
Sami Haapasalo
Laura Haavisto
Lauri Hanhimäki
Petri Hautala
Eeva Heikkonen
Saila Heinikoski
Hanna Heinonen
Tarmo Hietamaa
Paula Honkanen
Mira Häkkinen
Tiina Häkkinen
Tommi Hämeranta
Liina Härkönen
Hanna Höstman
Henna Iivarinen
Stiina Iloniemi
Jukka Jaatinen
Pirita Johansson
Taneli Junttila
Henna Juutilainen
Johanna Järvinen
Elsi Kalapudas
Kati Kalpa
Silja Kartovaara
Sonja Karvonen
Seija Kerttula
Jukka Keskinen
Heli Kivimäki
Pauliina Klemola
Heli Koivikko
Katri Korhonen
Mari Korpunen
Laura Kotiaho
Teija Kuivalainen
Sari Kumpulainen
Satu Kuruheimo
Marika Kälkäinen
Siru Laine
Anu Laitila
Piritta Lampinen
Carina Laurila-Olin
Toini Lehto
Jarkko Lehtola
Pirjo Katarina Leppänen
Päivi Liimatainen
Anni Lindell
Helena Lindell
Janni Lindholm
Anne Linna
Maria Lohi
Tommi Lupunen
Tiina Luukkonen
Miia Mattila
Mirka Maukonen
Anni Mentula
Susanna Murto
Sanna Mustonen
Mirja Muurinen
Soile Mäkelä
Heidi Mäki
Hanna Niemi
Katja Niemi
Marika Nordman
Maria Nousiainen
Saara Närhi
Jenni Närväinen
Mika Oksanen
Ulla Ontero
Laura Paavilainen
Anna Pertola
Tom Pesch
Tanja Piirainen
Mikko Pitkänen
Johanna Puustinen
Eveliina Pääkkönen
Iina Pääkkönen
Jenni Rajala
Liina Rajala
Tommi Rantanen
Elina Rautiainen
Iida Rautoma
Pertti Rautomaa
Kirsi Reima
Katja-Maj Riikonen
Tomi Ristola
Anne Rivinoja
Ann Rose
Tiia Ruuskanen
Niina Saikkonen
Tuija Saksi
Suvi Salmilampi
Sini Salminen
Jerry Savolainen
Tiina Siidorov
Jukka-Pekka Sillanpää
Inkeri Silvennoinen
Niina Siniranta
Anna Sinkkonen
Karin Sothmann
Mia Store
Anna Suominen
Miia Talsta
Jani Tikkanen
Tuulia Tipa
Ville Torvasti
Tiina Tulkki
Meri Tuomi
Soila Tuominen
Tiina Tuominen
Minna Vierimaa
Suvi Viitala
Eija Virtanen
Tuulikki Vuonokari
Heidi Vuorinen
Tapio Wallenius
Kati Wink
Sirpa Witick
Jenna Yli-Knuuttila