2nd Jun 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.


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.


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?


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.

The EU labour strike map: the rise and fall of industrial action

More services and less industry, more young people in new sectors, plus seasonal working, mark a long-term decline in trade union activity across Europe — despite the recent boom in strikes and stoppages driven by the cost-of-living crisis.


What a Spanish novelist can teach us about communality

In a world where cultural clashes and sectarianism seems to be on the increase, Spanish novelist Javier Cercas (b.1962) takes the opposite approach. He cherishes both life in the big city and in the countryside.


Poland and Hungary's ugly divorce over Ukraine

What started in 2015 as a 'friends-with-benefits' relationship between Viktor Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński, for Hungary and Poland, is ending in disgust and enmity — which will not be overcome until both leaders leave.

Latest News

  1. EU data protection chief launches Frontex investigation
  2. Madrid steps up bid to host EU anti-money laundering hub
  3. How EU leaders should deal with Chinese government repression
  4. MEPs pile on pressure for EU to delay Hungary's presidency
  5. IEA: World 'comfortably' on track for renewables target
  6. Europe's TV union wooing Lavrov for splashy interview
  7. ECB: eurozone home prices could see 'disorderly' fall
  8. Adapting to Southern Europe's 'new normal' — from droughts to floods

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us