Thursday

9th Feb 2023

EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

  • Interpreters at the EU parliament will still work on site (Photo: European Parliament)
Listen to article

In-house interpreters at the European Parliament have gone on strike, citing health issues and long working hours.

They will still interpret on site. But they will no longer interpret people who dial in from a remote connection.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

In a statement, the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), says the remote dial-ins have resulted in highly degraded sound.

The past two years have seen some European lawmakers dialling in from their cars, with poor internet connection and bad equipment.

The two combined are said to remove frequencies, which then exerts excessive acoustic pressure on the cochlea, a spiral-shaped bone of the inner ear essential to hearing.

The sound is rendered even worse through compressions via algorithms.

EUobserver understands 100 out of some 250 staff interpreters have since reported auditory health problems to the European Parliament medical services.

And an internal email from an interpreter delegation at the European Parliament notes that problems started to emerge in February 2021.

They say 63.5 percent of all staff interpreters were already experiencing hearing disorders at the time.

Their strike was scheduled to kick off on Monday (27 June) but was postponed by a day to negotiate with the parliament's leadership.

However, the European Parliament outsourced interpretation to another service provider on Monday. The new hires covered a session at a European parliament committee foreign affairs committee (Afet).

Frédéric Girard, one of the representatives of EU accredited freelance interpreters at the International Association of Conference Interpreters, described the outsourcing as social dumping.

"Interpreters are appalled by the decision of the European Parliament administration to outsource Monday's Afet," he said.

The move has only heightened tensions between the interpreters and the parliament's administration because it is seen as an effort to undermine the strike.

The press services for the parliament said the outsourcing was an exceptional and rare measure.

"It has already happened in the past for this kind of conference services," it said, in an emailed statement.

They noted that interpreters are back to working three per booth, all in the meeting room and that regular interpreter working conditions apply.

The parliament had also earlier this month decided to continue to use remote sessions in certain meetings, they said.

Interactio

Staff interpreters at the European Parliament use a so-called Interactio platform, first deployed in March of 2020.

The aim was to accommodate Covid-19 restrictions so that the European Parliament could continue to function.

Interactio apparently does not comply with international standards governing meetings with interpretation.

The European Parliament's DG for Logistics and Interpretation for Conferences or DG Link had reduced hours spent in the Interactio booths given the poor quality.

But when Covid-19 restrictions were later lifted on 13 June, the remote connections remained in place and the hours of work increased.

European parliament president Roberta Metsola has also chimed in.

On Sunday (26 June), she sent an email to staff interpreters, with trade unions Union Syndicale Luxembourg and U4U in copy.

The email, seen by EUobserver, says the parliament will continue to allow MEPs "to intervene remotely under specific circumstances."

But she also noted that the parliament is willing to work to find a solution to the problem.

"The social dialogue, of which I am the guarantor, has now started," she said.

That overture has since soured given Monday's outsourcing of interpreters.

Union Syndicale Luxembourg, in a response to Metsola, said the outside hires are a breach to the right of collective bargaining.

They also noted they are not accredited to the European Parliament, posing possible questions on quality.

Opinion

Let's revisit why the EU only has three 'work' languages

If the EU institutions adopted a single working language, couldn't the substantial amount of money saved on translation services be put to good use: such as protecting and preserving the many endangered languages of Europe?

Opinion

Working at EU institutions not easy for ethnic minority staff

EU institutions have failed to create an inclusive culture for Europeans of colour and people with disabilities, according to the European Commission's first-ever survey on diversity, inclusion and respect at the workplace.

Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules

Only half of EU staff claim good knowledge of their workplace's ethics rules, while 82 percent of staff at the European Parliament have never attended any ethics trainings, according to a report by the European Court of Auditors.

Opinion

Happy Birthday, Esperanto! 'Language of peace' turns 135

Esperanto's supporters include Alfred Hermann Fried, co-winner of the 1911 Nobel Peace Prize, and Lord Robert Cecil, the winner of the 1937 Nobel Peace Prize — not to mention communist revolutionaries like Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, and Josip Tito.

Opinion

Wales' message to Europe: 'We'll be back'

The scars of Brexit have left their mark in communities across Wales. The Menai mussel industry has experienced a sharp decline having once been a staple in fish counters and restaurants across Europe; its business model wrecked by post-Brexit rules.

Column

Why Europe's interminable compromises are a virtue

All member states complain about European compromises, each for their own reasons. Nevertheless, these decisions tend to be robust precisely because there is enough in them for everybody. And nobody wants to start negotiating all over again for another deal.

Latest News

  1. EU leaders attempt to hash out response to US green subsidies
  2. Russian diplomats in EU: unpaid wages, low morale
  3. Eight EU states press for more Turkey-style migrant swap deals
  4. EU buries head deeper in sand over Israel's apartheid
  5. Polish MEP also went on freelance Azerbaijan trip
  6. Why Europe's interminable compromises are a virtue
  7. Wales' message to Europe: 'We'll be back'
  8. MEPs to vote on risky 'hydrogen for home heating' rule

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWWEU Social Dialogue review – publication of the European Commission package and joint statement of ETUFs
  2. Oxfam InternationalPan Africa Program Progress Report 2022 - Post Covid and Beyond
  3. WWFWWF Living Planet Report
  4. EFBWWEFBWW Executive Committee report on major abuses, labour crime and subcontracting
  5. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  6. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us