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An international e-union for translators?
Thread poster: Alain Alameddine

Alain Alameddine  Identity Verified
Lebanon
Local time: 02:45
Member (2009)
English to French
+ ...
Apr 25, 2013

Hello all,

I've been thinking about all the problems most professional translators are facing today with most agencies online.

On my side, almost none of my clients pays on time or without a reminder. I can't stop working with them because I would lose most of my income. I can't even put a note on the Blue Board or TranslatorsCafé's Hall of Fame and Shame indicating they are alte payers, because they would just stop sending projects my way.

That made me think about how helpful an "international e-union" would be for translators. We could have a "black list" of non-payers, and a "red list" of late payers. We could go on strike against late payers, or even go on strike against all agencies except those on the "green list" of excellent clients. These are just a few examples about what such a "union" would help with.

I'm aware of the many potential loopholes and complicationsicon_smile.gif But do you think such a "union" would be helpful?

Best,
Alain Alameddine


 

Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:45
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
No, you couldn't Apr 25, 2013

That made me think about how helpful an "international e-union" would be for translators. We could have a "black list" of non-payers, and a "red list" of late payers. We could go on strike against late payers, or even go on strike against all agencies except those on the "green list" of excellent clients. These are just a few examples about what such a "union" would help with.


There are already plenty of places where you can report bad payers. The Blue Board is just one of them.

Your message is a perfect example of why that wouldn't work: you couldn't have a "black list of non-payers" (etc.), if this union consisted of people like you who continue to work for customers who don't pay them on time, and (worse) don't even report them to the Blue Board and the other payment practices for fear of not getting work.

The solution is, instead, to gradually stop working for the bad payers and find new customers that are good payers: most agencies I know pay on time.

I understand you cannot drop all your existing customers at once, but you should make a deal with yourself: start actively looking for better customers; for each new (better) customer you find, drop one of the worse. And report them to the Blue Board and the other payment practices list.


 

Paulinho Fonseca  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:45
Member (2011)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Well, that's exactly the right thing to do. Fully agreeing with Riccardo. Apr 25, 2013

Well, that's exactly the right thing to do. Fully agreeing with Riccardo.
If Blue Board is there, it's meant to the purpose. Creating another system doesn't make sense once you have to report these bad payers anyway.


Paulinho Fonseca

[Edited at 2013-04-25 20:15 GMT]


 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:45
German to English
+ ...
Also agree with Riccardo Apr 25, 2013

Alain Alameddine wrote:
I've been thinking about all the problems most professional translators are facing today with most agencies online.


Look at your introductory sentence again. I dispute that these are problems that "most" professional translators are facing with "most" agencies. Each of us knows our one small slice of the industry. Definitely have a look around - through ProZ, other sites for translators, translation conferences, blogs, etc. - for translators who are happily and profitably (on both sides) working for both agencies and direct clients and maybe take some cues from them. I guarantee there are many! I can post some blogs that offer great advice, if you'd like.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:45
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
If you are ready to bear it... Apr 25, 2013

Alain Alameddine wrote:
On my side, almost none of my clients pays on time or without a reminder. I can't stop working with them because I would lose most of my income. I can't even put a note on the Blue Board or TranslatorsCafé's Hall of Fame and Shame indicating they are alte payers, because they would just stop sending projects my way.

If you went to a TV court programme, the judge would probably ask you for how long have you been accepting the situation without a serious warning that you will stop working for a bad customer. Since the answer would be that you are bearing the situation for many months without firm action, the judge would not feel very sympathetic about your case.

If you find the situation unacceptable, then you should take firm action yourself and spend more time looking for more sensible customers. If you do not do it, it would mean that the situation was not that unaceptable after all.icon_smile.gif

As for an e-union of some kind, to me it would feel like we were dumping our business responsibility onto a committee, while it is us who must act personally, and already have the means to do it.


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 05:15
English to Hindi
+ ...
Unionism is on the decline around the world Apr 26, 2013

You are thinking in terms of the way coal miners or car mechanics or any industrial workers are (were?) unionised for the purpose of collective bargaining and mutual protection against a powerful enemy (their exploitative employers).

I don't think this will work for translators, especially freelance translators, who are free souls who value much their ability to take decisions for themselves. Most are capable of taking care of recalcitrant clients (late paying agencies) and their other tormentors and would hardly like the regimen involved in unionization.

Also, translators are so diverse, linguistically, regionally, nationally, and in umpteen other ways that I doubt if this kind of getting together is even possible, even if desirable, which also I doubt.


 

Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:45
Spanish to English
+ ...
FWIW Apr 26, 2013

I also agree with everything Riccardo said. Good point well made.
Find good agencies and tell bad payers that you'll only work for them on the basis of previous payment (you don't have to dump them - just change the problem which is the payment terms). Some won't send you more work, some may pay you in advance but the point is that you - and only you - will have changed your situation for the better and you're the only person who can. The closest you have to an 'e-union' is Proz (in the sense that it unites translators from around the world), and what you're suggesting re payers is exactly what the Blue Board does.

Turn the situation around. Instead of being afraid that bad payers won't send you (bad-paying) work anymore, make the bad payers afraid that they won't get good translators prepared to work for them anymore. Without translators, translating agencies are nothing.
The reason bad payers aren't entirely eradicated from the market is because there are still translators around willing to quietly accept their terms.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:45
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
No offence intended Apr 28, 2013

I don't believe an international translators' union could even begin to work, but if a way could be found then I don't think I'd want you running it, Alain. No offence intended, but by not making us aware of clients who consistently refuse to pay on time (and maybe even giving them a host of "5"s to make them come back?), you are doing the rest of us a huge disservice. If I had to elect a union leader, it would be someone with a great sense of responsibility and a wish to see openness and fair-play in everything.

 

Raya Mansour  Identity Verified
Lebanon
Local time: 02:45
Member (2009)
English to French
+ ...
I see Apr 28, 2013

Interesting comments!

Raya

[Edited at 2013-04-28 16:04 GMT]


 

Jane Proctor  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:45
French to English
Alain is just voicing a common catch 22 problem Apr 28, 2013

Alain, I'm sorry that certain members are being so hard on you. The Asker is voicing a common genuine concern (probably wishes he hadn't bothered now) and I don't think that shouting him down is helpful.

 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:45
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
being hard Apr 28, 2013

Good for you Jane Proctor. What needed to be pointed out to asker could easily have been done in a much more polite and respectful way. Some of the advice given was good but some were downright disrespectful. Does not encourage one much to put anything here if that is the case. Please use discretion. If the asker's suggestion was not good and had to be rejected downright, there was surely no need to be so personal. Pity there is not the function of Like/Dislike here. I agree with Riccardo: he gave good advice which can and should be followed and like Jane's feedback too.

 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:45
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Disrespectful? Where? Apr 28, 2013

Josephine Cassar wrote:
What needed to be pointed out to asker could easily have been done in a much more polite and respectful way. Some of the advice given was good but some were downright disrespectful.

I had to reread all postings to this forum to try to find anything that was "downright disrespectful", but honestly could not find anything. What I find is honest, direct advice. Could you please tell us what kind of expression is "downright disrespectful"? I am genuinely interested.


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:45
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
@ Tomas Apr 28, 2013

"I don't think I'd want you running it!" someone else pointed out there is no need to be so hard. Can we get more personal than bracketed words? Is that respect? To me, it isn't, different opinions then. You are entitled to yours, I am entitled to mine

 

Jane Proctor  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:45
French to English
with Josephine Apr 28, 2013

I agree about the like/dislike option too!

Back to the discussion in hand..


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:45
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
OK, but was it that unreasonable? Apr 29, 2013

OK, maybe the truth could have been wrapped differently to make it look nicer, but it would not change the truth: in order to change things, what you have to do is start by yourself and do everything in your power to turn around a situation for you, then for the rest based on the experience gained in the process.

 
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