Thursday, June 5, 2014

AIIC got 99 problems, but...

Dear readers, in our last blog post we discussed what AIIC was, and whether or not it has a place in today’s #globalized, #digital market.

Let us examine some events that might make AIIC look like an expensive [bitch]fight club.
The new UN-Chief Executives Board collective Agreement was negotiated in 2012.  This agreement applies not only to AIIC members, but to everyone, including mortals.
In our humble opinion, the Negotiating Delegation did an ace job, under extremely difficult circumstances. The UN hired a professional negotiator (some might call him a “union buster”) to negotiate with the chiefs of the UN.

Undeterred, the ND successfully shielded our working conditions (number of sessions, length of the sessions, etc.), and managed to avoid the imposition of an “elsewhere rate.” What is an “elsewhere rate”? In sum, it was an attempt to substantially reduce rates for interpreters working outside the major UN cities, with the explanation that “elsewhere”, the cost of living is lower, so if the UN can make you work there, they can also pay you less. (You’re welcome colleagues in Phnom Penh). 

The delegation faced incredible pressure. The UN arrived with a laundry list of demands, and was prepared to sign under the guise of an agreement.  Not even the world’s most representative multilateral forum was above pressure tactics- some ND members saw offers canceled in retaliation.  But we digress…

The only point in which the ND conceded was the issue of weekends. What about weekends? Well, old chap, during the Gilded Age, if you worked for an organisation both Friday and Monday, you would be paid for both Saturday and Sunday, as if you had interpreted, whether or not you had actually worked, or spent 48 hours on a binge in a brothel in Lyon. Following signature of the 2012 agreement, only non-locals got their weekends paid, and locals did not, unless they had managed to negotiate it separately with the chief interpreter (photos from said Lyon brothel may have been useful for this). As a result, paid weekends are gone for everyone except that mysterious clique of Chinese and Arabic booth colleagues.

Are you ready for the punchline? Many #boomer generation interpreters have been raging, RAGING we tell you, about this matter- and none of them work in the Chinese or Arabic booths.  The most vociferous colleagues on the weekend issue have not seen a paid weekend since around that time that the Netherlands first voted “No” to the Lisbon Treaty. The controversy of this non-issue dominates subsectorials, preventing any progress on other, more pressing fronts. 

More importantly- we advocate that AIIC start behaving like a union, before it becomes totally irrelevant and obsolete. As things stand, under the crushing yoke of austerity, do our esteemed colleagues think that ranting about “Ce que les chefs font, c’est minable! C’est pas éthique!” is going to get us anywhere? And what about colleagues whose argument to defend their platinum-plated travel conditions is that they are part of their human rights? HAHAHAHAH!
(Oh and hold your horses about how we are young whipper snappers who just want to forgo good travel conditions. It's the argument that is stupid, not the conditions).
Wake up and smell the #ScorchedEarth! We are labour, and the management of international organisations is… well, #Management! 

Time and again, #millennial interpreters hear from seasoned colleagues unable to see the forest for the trees that our supposed lack of pride and standards is responsible for driving down demand for our services, working conditions, and pay. Are they somehow unable to see that vehemently clinging to frivolous privileges as an escape mechanism does nothing but promote #Globish on the world stage? That their utter failure to stand up to management on core issues has led to a competitive bloodbath in the lower echelons of the profession? We ask our dear #boomer colleagues to please actually shoulder their responsibility in terms of defending interpreting and begin caring about the real reasons* young interpreters don’t have any work, or the Titanic is going to sink, pronto. 
Rest assured, we know names, and where the bodies are buried.
So yeah, AIIC has a problem of people, and of attitude. 

Among other things, AIIC must do a better job of supporting local delegations- for instance, in the case of those UNHQ’s currently implementing a dodgy hotel scheme. AIIC could start pestering the International Civil Service Commission when they do not answer professional delegations’ questions, avoid engaging in fratricide, and most importantly (pay close attention, this is crucial!) develop a real, visible presence in the private market.

And how about tarring and feathering those who flout the rules? No, seriously, if name'n'shame work so well for human rights organizations, why not for us?

* Hint: it’s a mixture of interpreting diploma mills engineered by the EU, and the fact that interpreters who should have retired with the Cold War have yet to make their exit.

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