Audiovisual translators and translation agencies reach a collective agreement in Finland – an agreement left unsigned by one company

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After a negotiating process that was drawn out for more than five years, the Finnish audiovisual translation field now has a collective agreement. The agreement meets the most important goals of the translators. One translation agency, SDI Media, did not sign the agreement.

The collective agreement for the audiovisual translation field was signed by the trade unions representing translators, the Union of Journalists in Finland and Akava Special Branches, as well as by the following translation agencies: BTI Studios, Pre-Text, Rosmer International and Stellar Text. In addition, Saga Vera is currently in negotiations to join the agreement. One agency, SDI Media, did not sign the agreement and, therefore, its employees are not under an obligation to maintain industrial peace.

– “We made the impossible possible. This collective agreement is a fine achievement after negotiations that ran for over five years during which the composition of participants at the table changed over time”, comments Petri Savolainen, Director at the Union of Journalists in Finland.

– “The collective agreement cuts short the tailspin that the industry has been in and launches its revival. This achievement demonstrates how employees and employers that respect the quality of work can together develop their field in a way beneficial to all parties”, says Helena Lamponen, Lobbying Manager at Akava Special Branches.

– “This agreement meets the most important goals of the translators”, Helena Lamponen and Petri Savolainen comment further on the content of the agreement.

The agreement contains a scheduled programme to raise salaries and fees in increments during the contract period. Agreeing on using subtitle count as fee criterion is an important stipulation for the translators. Previously, fees were often based on programme running time, which did not take the translators’ workload into account. Another important condition included in the new agreement concerns the copyright compensations for employed freelancers.

– It is the shared objective of all parties to reach a uniform level for all translation fees during the next round of negotiations, says Petri Savolainen.

–  Additionally, it is extremely important for the Union of Journalists that when providing translations for the  Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE, the Yhtyneet collective agreement is adhered to in all cases regardless of whether the work is done by permanent employees, employed freelancers or subcontractors.

The collective agreement entered into force on May Day, May 1 2015 and will be in force until the end of year 2017. On June 12, 2015, Saga Vera, a translation agency based in Oulu, Finland, joined the agreement.

An open letter to SDI Media from Finnish audiovisual translators

In a surprising turn, SDI Media, who participated in the collective agreement negotiations for the audiovisual translation field from the beginning, did not sign the agreement. Therefore, translators employed by SDI are not bound by the terms and conditions of the agreement. The same applies to the industrial peace that the new agreement brings to the field. As long as the obligation to maintain industrial peace does not apply to SDI’s translators, they have the right to take industrial action. Finnish audiovisual translators have sent an appeal to the SDI management to encourage the company to sign the new agreement without delay. In two days, the open letter was signed by 235 audiovisual translators.

On May 25, the trade unions issued application boycott on SDI Media after the agency did not sign the collective agreement by May 1. The boycott, being a legal industrial action, is in force until further notice, and means, in practice, that the unions advise their members to refrain from applying for positions within SDI Media.

An open letter to translation customers from Finnish audiovisual translators

On June 15, Finnish audiovisual translators sent an open letter signed by 292 individuals to the customers of the translation agencies urging them to encourage their translation providers to adhere to the terms and conditions, as well as the spirit, of the new collective agreement and to sign it as soon as possible, if they have not yet done so. This appeal emphasizes the need to restore the whole audiovisual translation field back to being an industry of skilled professionals providing high-quality subtitles, which Finnish audiences have been used to for several decades. In order to do this, salaries, fees and other labour terms need to be reasonable and the same to all.

Alarmingly, BTI Studios, the one large multinational translation agency that did sign the agreement, commenced co-operation negotiations with its employees with the aim of reducing a sizeable portion of its permanent workforce. The recent result of these negotiations is the laying off of 4 translators from the parent company and 9 translators from its Finnish subsidiary. In addition to this, the agency is known for widely using subcontractor translators, whose terms are a far cry from the terms and conditions of the new collective agreement.

The open letter sent to translation agency customers is available in English here.

The appeal sent to SDI management is available in Finnish here.
For further information, please contact:
Helena Lamponen, Lobbying Manager at Akava Special Branches, tel. +358 40 631 7660
Petri Savolainen, Director at Union of Journalists in Finland, tel. +358 50 534 24 85

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