Belgian justice system fails to pay more than a third of translators and interpreters on time

Belgian justice system fails to pay more than a third of translators and interpreters on time
Credit: Belga

The Ministry of Justice is slow to pay more than a third of its translators and interpreters on time, the Professional Union of Sworn Translators and Interpreters (UPTIJ) said in a statement on Thursday.

Although further resources are expected this year, the budget is reportedly unavailable. The union deems this situation untenable.

Translators, particularly interpreters under the jurisdiction of Halle-Vilvoorde, have faced payment delays for years, says UPTIJ. Additionally, several other members, representing over 400 sworn professionals, have now joined the waiting list for payment of invoices due in December 2023. This situation mainly affects Limburg translators and interpreters dealing with criminal cases due to a recent service reform handling legal costs. This problem does not appear to affect any other judicial district.

About 20% of UPTIJ members indicate waiting periods between 61 to 120 days for their invoice payments, according to a union survey. Only slightly over six in ten translators and interpreters state they were paid within the legal deadline of 30 days.

The UPTIJ is sounding the alarm due to prolonged dissatisfaction within the Guardianship Service of the SPF Justice. In November last year, the service reported that the 2023 annual budget had been exhausted. Entitlements for guardians of unaccompanied minors, and due to translators and interpreters involved in guardianship cases, were not paid. However, it seems payments are set to resume thanks to internal redistribution. Additional resources are also expected to be made available in 2024.

The Justice Ministry disputes these figures, asserting that in 2023, bills of all providers were honoured within 30 days in 90% of cases. They state that a different fund pays interpreters and tutors and acknowledges a "temporary delay" in payment of their fees that occurred last year.

"The SPF Justice resumed payments after a few weeks. Additional credits were still needed for some bills submitted in December 2023. These remaining payments due will be made next week," explains spokesperson Sharon Beavis. She also says that the Guardianship Service’s budget has been significantly increased to cover all needs.

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