Dutch police interpreters dissatisfied with new translation agency
Dutch police interpreters say they are getting paid too little, too late –– and some have already left the police. The root of their dissatisfaction is the new translation agency that runs interpreting services in the north of the Netherlands, according to De Volkskrant.
Last year, British interpreting service provider Thebigword won a tender from the Dutch police and became the main office for managing interpreting services in several Dutch cities, including Amsterdam. Freelance interpreters for the police who work with the company report that their invoices are left unpaid and they are unable to communicate with Thebigword. As a result, some interpreters have left and others are thinking about it.
"When I call the phone number Thebigword sent me, I get on the phone with a foreign finance department –– like a call center," one interpreter, Atif, told De Volkskrant. "They ask for an order number from the app. That app is supposed to link us to assignments, but it doesn't work at all. Things go wrong on all sides."
The police admit there are some problems with the system. However, they attributed them to "a totally new way of working that takes some getting used to for everyone," according to De Volkskrant.
In addition, interpreters say they were not allowed to charge rates that Thebigword thought was "too high" in order to avoid "unfair competition." English interpreter Margo Bink's account Thebigword was suspended shortly after she registered due to her "uncompetitive rates." Bink, who has more than 30 years of experience, decided to leave the public sector after that.
Several interpreters who spoke to De Volkskrant thought they were not allowed to charge enough, given the potentially dangerous nature of their work. "What happens if colleagues who are not paid and are already poorly paid are approached by criminals?" asked Daoud, an Arabic interpeter. "Or if Thebigword employees, who have access to interpreters' data, are approached? I dare not say it."
Ewa, a Polish interpreter, agreed that Thebigword's rates were far too low. Once, while she was translating for a dangerous suspect, the man tried to intimidate her by talking about her children and saying he knew where she lived.
"I think it's crazy that a foreign company is going to provide interpreting work here," Ewa said. "And they're never going to pay me more than 47.50 euros. I get too much shit for that."
Thebigword told De Volkskrant it would be happy to discuss the issues "in the future" after investigating the situation further. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz raised the minimum rate for interpreters to 55 euros per hour, which is set to take effect next year. Many interpreters say this is still not enough.