Tag: Association of Conference Interpreters

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SDL Tados 2021

Conference Interpreters Face Tumultuous EU Measures

Interpretation

Several of the measures put forth by the European Commission and European Parliament have aimed at mitigating the impact of contract cancellations on auxiliary conference interpreters, though still fall short for many.

Throughout the pandemic, European Union institutions have enacted several measures to address the significant loss in work for auxiliary conference interpreters (ACIs). Initially, the European Commission began canceling long-term ACI contracts, offering a loan of 1,300 euros for the period of inactivity. However, the cancellations made many ACIs ambivalent about the long-term viability of such measures and even led to groups gathering in front of parliament to protest the measures.

In a press statement in May, the interpreter trade union Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) said that freelance interpreters are responsible for over 50% of the simultaneous interpretation at meetings and conferences organized by the EU, with the rest covered by staff interpreters. The statement went on, “ACIs will receive a one-off payment for [the deferred] contracts shortly after accepting the package, and will have to work off the days,” adding, “The Institutions should go further than a loan of 1300 euros to cover 3-6 months without work and offer proper help during such an unprecedented crisis.”

Responding to the widespread criticism, the EC has decided to defer any further ACI contract cancellations through the rest of the year.

Besides the EC, however, the European Parliament (EP) has also gone through its own measures to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, proceeding with the cancellation of 2019 long-term ACI contracts on a rolling basis. To provide some assistance to the ACIs in this transition, the EP has offered a skills enhancement scheme that will provide ACIs with advanced funds to enroll in online courses relevant to the profession.

Asked for his reaction to these latest developments, Tom Van den Kerkhof, a Brussels-based ACI working for the EC, EP, and Court of Justice, said: “Personally, I am grateful for these measures, [although] I don’t qualify. I am a local ACI and, therefore, still have long-term contracts with SCIC until the end of the year. For the European Parliament, I have been getting a couple of contracts per month since June, which excludes me from the eligibility criteria. So, in a way, I am fortunate. You must work less than 3 days in a given 30-day period in order to qualify.”

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Chief Interpreter for European Commission Steps Down

Language Industry News and Events

The Chief Interpreter post will be filled on an interim basis while the European Commission seeks a new head to fill the position.

After acting as the European Commission (EC) Directorate General for Interpretation for four years, Florika Fink-Hooijer has stepped down to fill the role as Directorate General for the Environment, reporting to Virginijus Sinkevičius, commissioner for Environment and Oceans at the EC. The move has left the EC in search for a replacement Chief Interpreter.

Beginning in 2016, Fink-Hooijer led the Directorate General for Interpretation, also known by its previous French acronym SCIC. The SCIC is the world’s largest interpreting service with over 500 interpreters on staff, supported by 3,000 additional freelance interpreters.

The post came under fire recently after the EU COVID-response effort excluded thousands of freelance interpreters, a common theme for freelance workers during the pandemic. The Association of Conference Interpreters (AAIC), an international trade union, issued a press statement in June that highlighted the importance of supporting interpreters.

“Conference interpreters are facing financial losses that, in some cases, represent up to 100% of their income. Because of the nature of their contractual relation with the Institutions, most freelance interpreters will not be eligible for national aid measures, even if their Member State of residence were to adopt support measures for this category of workers,” the AIIC said.

Following the departure of Fink-Hooijer, the current deputy Carlos Alegria will take over as acting General Directorate for Interpreting on an interim basis as the EC searches for a new head. Alegria served as an interpreter for the SCIC from 1985-1993.

Furthermore, the EC is looking at women candidates for the new Chief Interpreter to meet its 2019 target ratio of 40% women in official posts, according to UEPO.de. Currently, women make up 38% of leadership in the EC.

The new President of the EC, Ursula von der Leyen, “has set her goals even higher: by 2024, half of all managers within the Commission administration should be women,” the report said.

According to UEPO.de, “Since Florika Fink-Hooijer is replacing a man in DG Environment, a renewed female occupation of the chief interpreter’s post would offer the opportunity to increase the proportion of women at this important management level. A total of 33 Directorates-General work for the Commission.”

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