Regarding BTI compensation and employment policies in Finland

Below is an e-mail written by a prospective subtitler to the Chief Financial Officer of Broadcast Text International, Henrik Wikren. Published by permission.


Date: Thu, 17 Jan 2013 14:38:49
From: Atro Tossavainen
Subject: Regarding BTI compensation and employment policies in Finland

Dear Mr Wikren

I recently wrote to your Finnish office, asking about the possibilities for occasional audiovisual translation work to be done through my own business, as a subcontractor and not as an employee, having seen your ad on the Finnish labour market website.

I received a very polite reply from your Finnish CEO and a suggestion that I perform a test translation seeing as I am an IT professional and not a qualified translator. All was well so far, but I also happened to ask about the levels of compensation that one could expect since your job ad on the bulletin board of the Finnish labour office has absolutely nothing at all on the topic.

Your Finnish CEO indicated that your rates are between 3 and 6 euros per finished minute of programming.

In my response to her, I made a quick back-of-the-hand calculation that shows one can't expect to live on your rates even if the conditions are optimal all of the time:

* Your expectation is 28 minutes of finished program per working day
* There are 21 working days in a month
* You pay 6 euros per minute at most

-> 3528 euros of billing into a business, which, after all the costs of running a business, might equate to about 2k EUR you can actually pay yourself as a salary



* it's not clear a translator can actually accomplish that much work in a day; the previous expectation in the labour market agreement was 17 minutes

* you pay from 3 to 6 euros a minute and it's unlikely that all of the work available will be at the top end of the scale

* it's not clear a freelance translator will receive as much work from you as they could perform all of the time

* and then there's the issue of having to pay for tools

* plus freelancers don't have the luxury of paid holidays, medical plans etc

In addition, since translators tend to be people with Master's degrees, the following ought to be relevant:
(I included the version in Swedish for your benefit)

You can see that the median salary for people with Master's degrees in Finland is about 4k EUR per month.

Would you agree to work on something that was less than half that, without even the benefits of being employed?

If that was all that was available to me, I'd seriously start considering flipping burgers at the local McD, cleaning offices, lugging stuff around in warehouses, or *anything* else that paid decently and included benefits commonly associated with being employed.

In addition, blue-collar jobs tend to have the pleasant property of staying behind at the workplace when you leave at the end of the shift. Translation, as any mental work, does not have that luxury. In a way, you end up working 24/7 anyway.

I chose not to return the test translation. There is no point in agreeing to be robbed, not even in principle.

I never received a response from your Finnish CEO. I can see why; there is nothing she can say. At rates of 3 to 6 euros per minute of finished programming and your proposed rate of work (which in itself is significantly higher than previously agreed upon in the labour agreement for the industry), exploitation is the only word that comes to mind. I can see why Mrs Kaurismäki would not respond; it's not that flattering to be seen as an exploiter.

Yours sincerely,
Atro Tossavainen