It’s My Business, cont’d. – Updates on the Trust Traduzioni Scandal

On 17 February 2010, the Italian Minister of Tourism, Michela Vittoria Brambilla, formally responded to the controversy generated by Trust Traduzioni’s February 8 job offer on Proz.com.

The statement, which the Ministry authorized for publication on the site of the Italian National Association of Translators and Interpreters (ANITI), reads:

The Ministry of Tourism has published no announcement of any kind regarding a search for translators nor has it authorized any other party to do so.
With regard to the announcement that appeared a few days ago on the http://www.proz.com internet site, and in which untrue information was imputed to the Ministry of Tourism, an official complaint has been filed with the competent authorities against person or persons unknown.
In addition, the Ministry would like to make clear that it does not apply and has no intention of applying the fees and conditions indicated in the announcement.

It’s largely a CYA response, and it remains to be seen whether anything will come of the complaint which, for the moment, names no one in particular. Meanwhile, as you may recall, the owner of Trust Traduzioni also threatened to sue “somebody” if the controversy caused problems in her contract with the Ministry. Evidently it has.

What’s interesting is what’s hidden beneath all this posturing. The Ministry says it has placed no advertisements seeking translators. Technically, that’s true—the Ministry isn’t looking directly for translators, but it did put out a call for bids to translation agencies, which is sort of a distinction without a difference.

Trust Traduzioni, meanwhile, has been caught with its pants down. In its ad, it attributed working conditions to the Ministry that the Ministry says it never authorized and does not, in fact, apply. (And, of course, the Ministry must say so because at least one of the conditions was illegal.)

Fair enough. But the fact of the matter is that this is all business as usual. The agency bids for a large job, pretending it has the personnel required to do the translation work. The Ministry pretends not to know that small-ish agencies like Trust Traduzioni don’t have a crowd of native-speaking translators just hanging around on the sidewalk like day-laborers, waiting for a job to come in. When the agency wins the contract, it has to scramble madly to find people to perform the services it has promised. The Ministry, meanwhile, pretends not to know that selecting the lowest-bidding agency necessarily means bad pay for the end-translator.

And, with fingers pointing in every direction, nobody has to take genuine responsibility for the part they’ve played in creating an untenable situation for translators.

In the meantime, translator Michael Farrell has created a new Yahoo mailing list, Azione Traduttori (to subscribe, you can also send a blank message to: azione-traduttori-subscribe@yahoogroups.com) intended to serve as a clearinghouse for action against the payment practices that Proz supports and promotes by refusing to exercise a little control over its job offerers. For now the list is in Italian only (though some English-language documents will become available.)

Shortly before Azione Traduttori was formed, a group of translators who work “into” or “out of” Italian created a new Facebook group, Liberi Professionisti Traduttori (Freelance Translators; click on the image to go there). In four days, 800 people had joined.

These efforts may seem small, but they’re still fairly revolutionary for Italy. (Consider, e.g., that the general category of “freelancer” is barely recognized in Italy; what’s more, for as much as most Italian bureaucrats or accountants or lawyers know about the subject, a freelance translator might have an easier time explaining a job as ravenmaster at the Tower of London). Meanwhile, Italian freelancers pay both higher social security/disability payments than any other kind of worker and higher taxes (and their tax filings are more complicated and more costly to prepare). That notwithstanding, when they get pregnant, need to take time off for chemotherapy, or want parenting leave, e.g., they have a nearly impossible time getting paid by the system that is theoretically there to provide for them.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the momentum keeps building.

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Posted on 18 February 2010, in Crimes Against Translation, Italy, Italian, Italians (in that order) and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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