The Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security have pushed back RFPs that aim to broaden the pool of agencies. Many translators and interpreters, however, claim the changes will lower professional standards.
After months of disputes, the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security has decided to defer the request for proposals (RFP) for its new contracts for interpretation and translation work to the first quarter of 2021. Originally scheduled to put out the RFP this month, the ministry would have put out a call for tenders that would include remote interpretation services for the Dutch Police, along with interpretation services for the Judiciary and Probation Office, Council for the Protection of Minors, Dutch Council for Refugees, Nidos (for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers), Immigration and Naturalization Service, Central Reception of Asylum Seekers, and the Repatriation and Departure Service.
The notice also stated that the Justice Ministry is “working on a renewed system for the quality, use, and procurement” of language services that includes the renewal of the Register of Sworn Interpreters and Translators (Rbtv).
“By offering sufficient variety in tenders and by setting clear quality requirements related to Rbtv in all tenders, we aim to attract a wide range of tenderers,” the Ministry said.
The Ministry had also planned to publish at least a dozen subsequent tenders “consecutively or simultaneously,” for interpretation — simultaneous, remote, or face-to-face — or translation services for the police, Legal Aid Council, Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Judiciary, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, among others.
However, after strikes from over 1,500 interpreters and translators in the Netherlands, the Ministry has decided to delay the RFP. The opposition to the new system began with a petition put out late last year, claiming that the Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, wanted “to outsource the hiring of interpreters and allow unqualified translators and agencies to bid for work” with the police, courts, and immigration services.
Roemer Leushuis, a sworn translator from the petitioning group who has also gone on strike, stated that he and others are on strike because “the work only consists of very small parcels (individual assignments). So, legally, there is no obligation to publish a tender. In Germany, for example, the authorities outsource per assignment. In the Netherlands, too, we want it to keep it that way.”
Leushuis wrote in a column that, on June 16, 2020, “MPs rejected a final attempt to stop” Minister Grapperhaus from pushing through with his two proposals. “One concerned the introduction of commercial intermediaries for all government interpretation and translation work. The other focused on reducing the language skill level for certified interpreters and translators.”
Nevertheless, the Dutch Ministry has gone forward with its shift in standards, lowering the certification requirement from C1 to B2-level. The Rbtv also contracts first B2 interpreters, but mostly for low-resource languages, such as Amharic, Albanian, Azerbeidjani, Farsi. Leushuis wrote, “The justice department has decided to deal with the relative scarcity [of linguists] by lowering the professional standards. That is not a wise decision. The B2 language level which would be required is about that of a secondary school pupil, and not nearly enough to do the job properly.”
In response to the changes, many of the translators and interpreters involved in the strike have plans to form “a new professional body to protect the interests of Dutch professionals. This organization will shortly come into existence,” according to Leushuis. Asked how the new group would be different from the currently existing NGTV (Netherlands Association of Interpreters and Translators), Leushuis replied, “It will be different from NGTV in the sense that it will be representing primarily certified T&Is — and I expect it will take a tougher stance against the Ministry of Justice.”