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Poll: Should translators form a union?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Jan 13, 2010

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Should translators form a union?".

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philippid  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:23
Member (2007)
German to English
+ ...
Existing unions Jan 13, 2010

In fact there are a number of unions, and most national associations have minimum prices and similar unionesque features.

http://www.londonfreelance.org/feesguide/index.php?language=en&country=UK§ion=Welcome

As dumping prices are the single most damaging effect of the transition to an online marketplace (just look at the forum for any number of "bottom-feeder" threads), cooperation on price is certainly an important topic!

Best regards


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Mónica Algazi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 03:23
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
Professional associations Jan 13, 2010

In Uruguay we have a professional association, not a union.
The Colegio de Traductores Públicos del Uruguay not only sets the minimum fees for the different kinds of official translations, but also organizes further training courses, talks, etc.


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Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 08:23
Member (2008)
English to Italian
same thing here Jan 13, 2010

Mónica Algazi wrote:

In Uruguay we have a professional association, not a union.
The Colegio de Traductores Públicos del Uruguay not only sets the minimum fees for the different kinds of official translations, but also organizes further training courses, talks, etc.


We have the same here in Italy, but in my opinion, since the most important aspect would be the minimum price for translations, it would not be a solution.

Quickly: the igeneral dea is that we are not professional (as an engineer, or a lawyer), we are people "who know languages", and the question I am usually asked is: "is that a job? you know the languages, what's the effort?"

Well unless the concept of a translator changes, we will always be treated as "sharks eating each other", and our services will be always treated as minor things, not worth a normal price.
Obviously, I cannot impose my rates to anyone (and obviously nobody can do it to me), but could some "control" by a Union maybe work? I don't think it would, too many people who translate as a second or third job and who can ask for a few cents per word, and Union, Association or whatever, well, I cannot prevent these people from getting jobs.
and outsourcers know that this is the way it is.

Then, a professional translator guarantees a better quality, fine, how many clients think: ok I get a bad translation, and an in-house proofreader can fix it, and I save more money than getting a proper translation at first?

Not easy.


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R-i-c-h-a-r-d  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 03:23
Member (2006)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
No, not really Jan 13, 2010

As we've already seen, the Proz 'Pro' initiative was set up as a great opportunity to directly tackle such issues such as market price-slashing, but it hasn't really worked out.

Once you set up a hierarchical or class-based group you create inferiority or derision on the part of those people who are not members of that group.

These things should be discussed openly by everyone, not exclusively. We're all in it together at the end of the day but each one of us is still fighting for his/her own personal survival - it's a contradiction.


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Nigel Greenwood  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:23
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I voted "Other" Jan 13, 2010

Why?

Because 'Globalization' affects our work, the same Outsourcer can get quotes from any country, where prices are higher or lower. For example, I personally have a client in a Latin American country and I have to accpet working for a low price, on the other hand I have clients in European countries, where I can charge a higher price.

What union can globally control prices? I fear it is not possible. What union can enforce "only porfessional full-time translators", once again it is impossible.

So, what can we do? Make sure that we always give top-quality, properly priced translations. When I say "properly priced" I mean a competitive (not dumping) price.

That's why I chose "other".

Best regards to all fellow colleagues

Nigel.


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Johanna von der Vring  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:23
Member (2006)
Italian to German
+ ...
Yes, but Jan 13, 2010

Of course we should form a union. I answered "yes, but", because I think that in such a Union only professional translators with credentials or references should be accepted. It is very important to stand together and to defend our rights. But I'm not intersted to be in a professional Association, where very non professional could be a member.

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Wolfgang Jörissen  Identity Verified
Belize
Member
Dutch to German
+ ...
No thank you Jan 13, 2010

An entrepreneur being a member of a union? Somehow this is a contradictio in termini for me.
Besides that, although we all call ourselves translators, we work in so many different settings that no union could possibly cover. So in a way, a union will always end up being just another professional organisation you have to pay contributions to, trying to apply certain standards (Johanna already raised that issue) and what will change in the end? Well, answer the question yourself.


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philippid  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:23
Member (2007)
German to English
+ ...
Freelancers! Jan 13, 2010

An entrepreneur being a member of a union? Somehow this is a contradictio in termini for me.


Translators are freelance workers, not entrepreneurs! Agencies are commercial enterprises and would naturally oppose price-fixing by workers..

Scabs have always been a problem to any union; if the members of a trade association are known to be competent, however, this has never been a problem.


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Rebecca Garber  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:23
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
I'm already in a union Jan 13, 2010

In the US:

http://www.freelancersunion.org/index.html

They help get health insurance, and they're working on dealing with the tax issues that the self-employed deal with.


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Erik Hansson  Identity Verified
Germany
Member (2002)
Swedish
+ ...
No, thanks. Jan 13, 2010

I guess the question is about the term "union" in regards of "labour union".

philippid wrote:

An entrepreneur being a member of a union? Somehow this is a contradictio in termini for me.


Translators are freelance workers, not entrepreneurs! Agencies are commercial enterprises and would naturally oppose price-fixing by workers..



And freelance workers are, as the name says, freelancers - their own boss and can't be regarded as employees.

How can a freelance translator ask for becoming a member of a labour union? In such case he/she should start looking for a safe 8 to 5 in-house employment right away. So I definitely agree with Wolfgang that establishing a union would be contradictory.

The main reason for a labour union is to represents the employees, very often as a strong counterpartner towards the employer. If applying this to our business, who would represent whom? We are all business partners!


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Andres & Leticia Enjuto  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 03:23
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Two sides of the coin Jan 13, 2010

Fisrt of all: We are sharks eating each other.

Gianluca Marras wrote:
Well unless the concept of a translator changes, we will always be treated as "sharks eating each other"...


The best example are the agencies charging very low prices to other agencies (I'm talking about 6 to 8 US cents), and paying less than half of that rate to freelance translators. It happens a lot in Argentina. In fact, they are dumping the market prices not only in Argentina, but all over. And they offer good quality, actually.

One side are freelancers. Even though a union does not seem accurate for an independent activity, we do need to join forces and defend our interests. A professional association looks like a better option, but we should look for one with:

- Strong ethics, as it is very easy to bend before the economic powers and interests. Just to picture our situation here, at least one of the authorities of the most important "Colegio de Traductores" in Argentina (a Professional T/I Association) outsources translation work to students at about one third of the rates suggested by such Association!)
- International presence.
- Open minded: there are many of us without a T/I degree, but with as much passion and interest in defending our only source of income as anyone else.

(You can Google to find an international association of translators with ethics as its main focus.)

Of course we can not set fixed prices, but we must raise awareness.

The other side are in-house translators. In Argentina, in-house translators are paid just about the same what a maid is paid. Even though both jobs are perfectly decent, a translator studies more and adds a lot of value to his/her employer. To give you an idea, they can work for even U$0.005 a word.
Independent studies show they should be paid at least three or four times what they are getting now.
And the main source of all this is: ignorance.

A union (or something along this line) looks a good alternative for them.

Just my thoughts. Take care!

Andrés

[Edited at 2010-01-13 16:07 GMT]


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:23
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
No Jan 13, 2010

It would be a very difficult task setting up a translator's labor union.

A union, if formed, would produce a privileged group to the exclusion of others. However, this would break down pretty fast. The best bidder usually gets the job, union or no union. "Scabbing" will take care of any union pretty quickly.


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xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 08:23
English to French
+ ...
Agree Jan 13, 2010

Nigel Greenwood wrote:

Why?

Because 'Globalization' affects our work, the same Outsourcer can get quotes from any country, where prices are higher or lower. For example, I personally have a client in a Latin American country and I have to accpet working for a low price, on the other hand I have clients in European countries, where I can charge a higher price.



Prices also drop, even without changing rates, when the currency of a specific customer goes down and you live in a strong currency country. [At present, my direct customers in North America have cheaper rates than the European agencies I work for, even though once upon a time they paid double.]

How do you expect a Union to solve that sort of issue?


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Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:23
Member (2006)
German to English
No Jan 13, 2010

What is the point as, how philippid wrote, Translators are freelance workers, not entrepreneurs! An I also cannot imagine how a union should stop price dumping. I just do not accept anything under my minimum and have not been requested to.

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