Translators' dispute escalates – unions issue application boycott and overtime ban on Broadcast Text in Finland
The Finnish trade unions Akava Special Branches and the Union of Journalists in Finland have taken action in support of the grievances on terms and conditions of translators working for audiovisual translation agencies. On Tuesday, 20 November, these unions issued an overtime ban and an application boycott on Broadcast Text International (BTI). The application boycott applies also to BTI's subsidiary BTI International, to which the employees and freelancers of the broadcasting company MTV Media were handed over in the recent business transfer of MTV Media's translation department.
The unions decided on these actions after having concluded that the unions' and the translation agency's views on terms and conditions had not approached each other during the course of the recent negotiations. With the application boycott, the unions advise their members to refrain from applying to jobs with BTI and its affiliate. The overtime ban aims at blocking overtime work, which has allegedly been used to to compensate for the lost labour input of the 101 translators who have resigned from the affiliate BTII.
"The employer has not shown genuine interest in negotiating over the terms and conditions of professional translators. The company has not accepted the existing collective agreement even as a basis for negotiations," says Petri Savolainen, director at the Union of Journalists in Finland.
Kari Eskola, labour market lawyer at Akava Special Branches, says that the situation has escalated into a tangible threat to the whole profession.
"We want to ensure that translators as highly educated professionals will be able to continue their demanding jobs on a solid basis. The pushing down of wages in the field must come to a halt. The unions and the translators have all the time been ready to negotiate on decent terms and conditions of work, whereas the opposing party has not," Eskola says.
Translator Lauri Mäkelä, previously a freelancer at MTV Media, is one of those who resigned from their new employer BTII this autumn. He participated in the discussions with the representatives of the translation agency.
"The pay rates that the translation agency offers to its freelancers are so small that one would have to work at an absurd pace in order to achieve earnings even close to what we had before. On top of a reduction in salary, a considerable increase in working pace is expected also from those who were offered a continuous employment contract. Those working on a freelance contract have, in practice, been forced to become entrepreneurs and they must accept dictated pay rates which vary according to the end client of each translation job. Thus all of the company's entrepreneurial risk has been outsourced to the translators. The majority of the over 300 audiovisual translators in Finland are fed up with the current state of affairs. We want fair terms of work and equal earnings for all subtitling work, since the work is the same regardless of the end client," says Mäkelä.
Akava Special Branches (Akavan Erityisalat) is the umbrella organization hosting, among others, Translation Industry Professionals (Käännösalan asiantuntijat; KAJ), the trade organization for translators, interpreters and other experts in the field of translation and multilingual communication. The Union of Journalists in Finland (Suomen Journalistiliitto; SJL) is a trade union for people employed in journalistic professions, and its members include also subtitlers.