Choosing a service provider: a political issue
We’re in an economic crisis. Translators knew this already since the price of translation has not increased in the last five years (it has even decreased these last two years).
However, we can’t place all the blame for this contraction in the market on translation agencies. There are others responsible in far higher places.
Fairtrad has submitted over ten quotations during the last twelve months to ministries in France and Italy, to embassies and NGOs, at an average rate of €0.15/ per source word (including pdf>doc conversion, translation and proofreading), and has never been accepted. These institutions have an obligation of transparency and must therefore divulge the winning bid to the service providers consulted. It appears that the average sale price from agency to institution is €0.10 per source word, which means that the translator was paid €0.05 per word and the proofreader €0.02 (blame quickly shifting to “translators” who accept such conditions).
Now, I can understand that the first instinct of your everyday private company director will be to always get the lowest price (even if it means explaining to them that they don’t know how to buy their translations properly).
However, I am outraged at this type of reasoning when it comes to a public organisation.
How can the Ministry for Ecology or the United Nations – to mention but two – choose the lowest bidder without regard for the service provider’s working conditions?
If even those who should be promoting high quality work performed in dignified conditions, who should be helping small companies and promoting sustainable development, base their choice on rates alone, I don’t see how we can defend our case with other market players. Selecting a service provider is not just an economic choice, but also a political one: if I offer you a pair of shoes costing 10 euros, you can imagine that the factory which manufactures them exploits its workers and does not comply with anti-pollution standards. And your opponents would be right to point their finger at you for being morally reprehensible.
So why should a translation agency which sells translations at 0.08 per word be considered as honest as a competitor selling at double the price? Why this bad faith prompting people to believe it is the more costly trying to rip you off, and not the other way round?
I find it inacceptable that “decision-makers” working in public companies and NGOs do not take into account elements such as social and environmental responsibility, transparency or quality when they purchase their translations. It really is the last straw to think that our profession is scorned by the very people who are supposed to help develop the most endangered of causes.
I therefore appeal to these decision-makers: seeking economies of scale in the sale of intellectual services is simply immoral – the raw materials involved are real men and women. You hadn’t thought it through? Fairtrad has opened your eyes. Take action accordingly.