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Unions for translators?
Thread poster: mahirsh
mahirsh
United States
Local time: 03:37
Japanese to English
Apr 12, 2015

Translation student here, wondering if translators that work for translating companies ("in-house translators"?) have labor unions. Would they help regulate wages to insure, for instance, that women don't get paid less than men of the same skill level, source language, etc.?

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 08:37
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
In-house translators Apr 12, 2015

I have never worked in a translating company, but I worked in-house for 20 years at a European Union Institution. At the same level, men and women earn exactly the same, but though as a whole women make up 52.4% of staff and men account for 47.6%, over 55% of the middle management positions are held by women and 50% at senior management. The Staff Regulations (published in the Official Journal) apply to all staff at all levels and were last revised in 2014 and widely discussed with the Staff Unions.

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Daryo
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:37
Serbian to English
+ ...
as far as I know Apr 12, 2015

real "in-house" translators are to be found mainly in large international organizations, and some multinationals and export-import companies.

To my knowledge "in-house" translators in full time employment of translation companies are just marketing BS - the project managers might be directly employed by translation companies, but not translators. I would love to hear of anyone proving the contrary.

I don't know where you are taking your facts from, but I think you are far more likely to start as a free-lance translator than an "in-house" translator in a translation agency, so the general concerns of any translator (be it male of female or ...) like falling rates, unrealistic deadlines etc ... should probably be more of immediate concern...


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xxxbrg
Netherlands
My opinion Apr 12, 2015

Daryo wrote:

o my knowledge "in-house" translators in full time employment of translation companies are just marketing BS - the project managers might be directly employed by translation companies, but not translators. I would love to hear of anyone proving the contrary.


Yes. But I know of some big translation companies who have in-house translators for the most common language pairs (English-Spanish, English-French, etc. depending on where they are. The other languages are subcontracted). And of other smaller ones consisting of 2-5 translators with one secretary.

In each case, these employees are working Under general law, whatever the country. And of course, as individuals they can subscribe to a translation association in their country, which also can defend their rights.


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:37
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Not just marketing BS Apr 12, 2015

Daryo wrote:

To my knowledge "in-house" translators in full time employment of translation companies are just marketing BS - the project managers might be directly employed by translation companies, but not translators. I would love to hear of anyone proving the contrary.


I started out as an in-house translator for a translation agency that I know still employs full-time in-house translators to this day. However, I agree that in-house translators working in translation agencies are a dying breed and a translation student these days is much more likely to either end up freelancing, working in-house as a translator for a non-translation-related company, organisation or corporation, or project managing if they do work for an actual translation agency.

I have also heard some common stories about in-house translators working for big translation agencies and having to hit some seriously high word quotas per day, without specialising and without being as free to turn down jobs (like, you can't say no just because you don't feel like it or because you could do a different type of text faster. If that job is coming in, that's the job you have to do unless you legitimately can't because it's too specialised for you) -- so I think as a translation student you have to be very careful about accepting an in-house position. Make sure it's a good fit for you and your working style.

Here in the UK, aside from professional associations I believe there are no translators' unions that function like a traditional labour union.

[Edited at 2015-04-12 17:44 GMT]


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 09:37
English to Russian
+ ...
IMHO, a bad idea Apr 12, 2015

I don't think translation lends itself well to unionization. It's a profession rather than a trade, and while having a union may seem advantageous to those just embarking on this career, in the long term your run a risk of painting yourself into a corner when you outgrow the advantages of a union job.

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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
I worked in-house Apr 12, 2015

And all my translation colleagues were women, in both of the institutions I worked in. They also all made more money than I did.

I'm not a big fan of unions, personally. I had my fair share while working in carpentry and will never join another one (which is what led me to translation). A certain amount of organization and standardization could be helpful, but, at the same time, I don't want anyone messing with my business nor do I want to mess with anyone else's.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:37
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
professionals can fight their own fight Apr 12, 2015

Anton Konashenok wrote:
I don't think translation lends itself well to unionization. It's a profession rather than a trade, and while having a union may seem advantageous to those just embarking on this career, in the long term your run a risk of painting yourself into a corner when you outgrow the advantages of a union job.

We would devalue our profession by calling on organisations to speak for us. I for one don't want anyone telling me what my terms and conditions should be, not even if they are supposedly doing it on my behalf.


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:37
Danish to English
+ ...
Different from one country to another Apr 13, 2015

Daryo wrote:

To my knowledge "in-house" translators in full time employment of translation companies are just marketing BS - the project managers might be directly employed by translation companies, but not translators. I would love to hear of anyone proving the contrary.


That's a very sweeping, general comment that you cannot possibly substantiate. Surely, employment situations/conditions vary from one country to another.

After graduation, I worked four years as an in-house translator for an engineering/production company, then seven years as a full-time in-house translator for a translation agency. No BS in either of those two jobs, both fully professional jobs as a fully professional translator.

There is a trade union in Denmark that specialises in communication trades (aimed particularly at translators, interpreters, journalists and similar professionals), and I signed up with them while still a student. I left that union very quickly, as I didn't find it helpful or useful in any way. Instead, I simply signed up with a general cross-trade trade union. They were perfectly capable of helping with any practical/legal issues, and much, much cheaper than the 'specialist' union...


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Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:37
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
Only for local interpreters Apr 14, 2015

Translation is remote cheap(*) labor, totally unregulated and global. Nobody knows who translated what, at what price at what location. A union would be impossible.

However, local interpreters should definitely consider it.


(*) Currently, fees in the U.S. for a translator working with an hourly charge, after taxes and after business expenses, range about $15-$20/hour in the best case scenario. That's a little over minimum wage, if one has constant work.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 15:37
Chinese to English
The professions have the strongest unions! Apr 14, 2015

I don't think translation lends itself well to unionization. It's a profession rather than a trade

We would devalue our profession by calling on organisations to speak for us.


I know the word "union" stirs up a lot of bad feeling, but I think it's important to remember that "the professions" - lawyers, doctors, accountants - have the very strongest unions of them all. They're not called unions, they're called (in the UK) the Bar Association, the GMC, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants. But they do exactly what unions do, only in a more genteel manner.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:37
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
What in-house translators? Apr 14, 2015

There is virtually none!

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 08:37
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
What about those working in the EU Institutions? Apr 14, 2015

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

There is virtually none!


All the European Union institutions have their own in-house translation departments, the Commission being the largest, with some sixteen hundred linguists. The Council and the European Parliament come next, with about half that number of translators each, followed by the Court of Justice with around two hundred and fifty. The Economic and Social Committee has a hundred and fifty translators, and the Court of Auditors and the Committee of the Regions employ about sixty each.


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Richard Foulkes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:37
German to English
+ ...
Have to disagree Phil Apr 14, 2015

Phil Hand wrote:

I don't think translation lends itself well to unionization. It's a profession rather than a trade

We would devalue our profession by calling on organisations to speak for us.


I know the word "union" stirs up a lot of bad feeling, but I think it's important to remember that "the professions" - lawyers, doctors, accountants - have the very strongest unions of them all. They're not called unions, they're called (in the UK) the Bar Association, the GMC, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants. But they do exactly what unions do, only in a more genteel manner.


Professional associations are not unions. Their role is two-fold. To serve members by maintaining the standing of the profession and to serve the public by holding members to account through regulation.

Funnily enough, translation doesn't have any of these either!


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The Misha
Local time: 03:37
Russian to English
+ ...
And you extrapolate your personal experience based exactly on what? Apr 14, 2015

Eleftherios Kritikakis wrote:



(*) Currently, fees in the U.S. for a translator working with an hourly charge, after taxes and after business expenses, range about $15-$20/hour in the best case scenario. That's a little over minimum wage, if one has constant work.





It looks like we both live in the same country but to me the above sounds like it could be coming from Mars or some such. Heck, maybe you do need a union. I know I don't.


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