On January 25, 2024, Slator reported on the Spanish Senate’s rejection of a request by political party Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) to reconsider the outsourcing of language services for congressional sessions. The call for tenders is worth about EUR 0.75m.
The call for tenders also came after the government had already spent about EUR 53,000 just on interpreting equipment to accommodate co-official languages in-house, but the contract will not require translators/transcriptionists and interpreters to be present.
On February 2, 2024, Red Vértice, a conglomerate of 20 professional translation and interpretation associations, that include ASETRAD, the Spanish Association of Translators, Editors, and Interpreters, published a statement regarding the call for tenders.
The collective’s statement questions the rationale behind the Senate’s decision to outsource interpretation services, arguing that it harms workers, hinders quality, and lacks transparency. It also calls for fair conditions, professional involvement, and respect for the language services sector.
The network also expresses concern about doing away with best professional practices established back in 2005, which require the use of qualified interpreters hired directly by the government.
By the time they began interpreting for the government, those interpreters had met a set of stringent requirements and a vetting process, creating an expectation for the highest quality performance and well-defined working conditions, details the statement.
Outsourcing Impact on Quality
According to the network’s statement, outsourcing hiring for the Senate’s sessions in Catalan, Basque, Galician, Spanish, and Valencian “creates conditions that we find to be very negative.” On the subject of quality, specifically, the statement mentions the many times the associations, especially the judicial interpreting cohort, publicly decried serious errors and quality issues related to the use of non-professional, non-accredited interpreters by government-contracted language service providers (LSPs).
The statement further rejects the main rationale given for the Senate tender, which is to reduce expenditures. The collective reckons that savings are not realized through changing from in-person to remote interpretation. Instead, they think savings will come at the expense of interpreter fees, reducing them to less than half their current value.
Budgetary allocations for other expenses, including an online platform and personnel onboarding for its use, also eat into what the professional network believes should be assigned to proper interpreter vetting and compensation.
“This leads to impoverishing working conditions and completely destroys the sector … there are also no specifications [in the tender] on the training interpreters must have or the conditions under which they will carry out their work,” continues the statement.
Consult the Experts
The statement also deplores the fact that the Senate announced the tender without first consulting or negotiating with those already doing the job, hired by the government, nor with the professional associations. The network sees this as a lack of respect for the rights of those who work in conference interpretation and who also make themselves available to the government as advisors.
The statement signatories expressly “oppose the conditions of this tender and demand that this procedure be corrected, with the participation of the professional associations representing the business sector, and for this type of action to not be used for contracting similar services in Congress.”