Self-employed interpreters in the European institutions are set to unionise in the near future, as EURACTIV reports. The current arrangement sees them sign individual contracts with intermediaries, which often leads to belated payments.
Given the EU Member States speak 24 different languages, interpreters play an essential role in assuring that the affairs of the institutions can be carried out smoothly and precisely. However, those in the profession have felt increasingly undervalued due to their current contract arrangement.
Not only are interpreters treated as self-employed agents, they rarely ever sign a direct contract with clients. Instead, they work with language service providers or other third-party companies. They argue that this undermines their conditions of work and protections in the long run.
Not only do these intermediary companies recoup most of the fees paid by clients, but some have also been accused of not respecting the due dates for these interpreters' invoices.
Martin Willems, from the CSC United Freelancers union, told the European media outlet that "if you do not put the due date in writing, you have companies paying three months later."
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Willems added that interpreter salaries have still not risen despite rampant levels of inflation. He attributed this to the fixed price contacts interpreters are committed to.
As a result, when the European Commission announced guidelines that allow the self-employed to organise to negotiate collective bargaining agreements, many interpreters saw this as a breakthrough and have decided to unionise.