The CdP worldwide survey of staff interpreters 2007: Why they do or do not join

A look at why the number of freelance members is rising while staff interpreter numbers remain stable.

I. Introduction

Although the number of staff interpreter members of AIIC has remained roughly stable over the years at around 10% of membership, the CdP has often thought that it would like to increase the support of staff interpreters for the only international association representing the profession, and on whose rules on such things as working hours, working conditions, manning strengths, code of ethics, not only the profession but also the interpreting services for which the staff work, have been built up over the years.

The majority of staff interpreters work for international organisations (IOs) which grew up in the aftermath of World War II, when simultaneous interpretation gradually became the norm. The pioneering work of mostly staff interpreters created our association and codified the profession. Yet, over the years, with the growing demand for interpreters and the increasing numbers of professional interpreters working as freelance, who naturally turned to AIIC for support and services, the association has become a much more freelance oriented body, providing a central registry whereby these colleagues can publish their names in order to obtain work, defending their interests through collective negotiations with major organisations, creating groups such as PriMs and Bizorg, the Agreement Sector and its delegations.... Of course, AIIC also has activities which could and do interest some staff - in training, research, networking etc., but can they be made attractive to more staff whose pay packets drop comfortably onto the mat each month and do not therefore obtain any commercial advantage from membership?

Whilst the freelance side of the association has been thriving, the staff have remained on the sidelines - apart from being represented by a few active individuals in some AIIC governing bodies, groups and committees. To some extent this is due to the schizophrenic battle with the existential problem of 'who am I first and foremost: a civil servant? a conference interpreter?' As one person commented in the present survey: 'membership (of AIIC) is a question of perception: interpreter first or staff first?' Older interpreters will remember that their working conditions were not God- or Organisation-given, but AIIC-given. But that was a long time ago, and now they just seem to believe in the grace of their employer and the strength or weakness of their (own) representatives to maintain, even sometimes to improve, but often to see eroded, their working conditions. The sense of belonging to an ancient and honourable profession gets lost in the petty jealousies or grand designs of civil service life.

Some, of course, do try to keep the interest alive. The CDP is still extant despite various forecasts of its demise, but the few individuals who actively participate there are usually overstretched and, we admit it ourselves, have had few ideas as to how to encourage our fellow staff interpreters to take more of an interest in AIIC and thus share our burden. Nor have we been able to suggest to AIIC what it could do as a means of enticement.

When in doubt, do a study. This is common international organisation practice and the CdP decided to take a leaf out of its employers' book and do a survey to find out why staff do or do not join or leave AIIC, and try to elicit some ideas as to what would motivate staff to join, whilst at the same time gathering a little more information about our present situation in the wake of the last study carried out by the CdP and the Training Committee on 'La Relève'.

The idea of this study was born at our annual meeting in 2005. In 2006 the final version of the survey was approved. In 2007 it was sent out and the results processed. Not a high-speed survey therefore, and home-made at that, but we believe that the results are interesting. We do not claim that, if implemented, our conclusions will encourage hundreds of staff to join AIIC, but the seeds of possibility may grow if well-watered in future years by a modern, dynamic association which needs new blood to make it so.

II. Methodology

In order to obtain an idea of the reasons why staff do or do not join or leave AIIC, and to try to elicit ideas as to how to make AIIC attractive to staff, as well as to further complete the snapshot of these interpreters, the CdP decided to send out to as many staff interpreters as possible, both members and non-members of AIIC, an 18-point questionnaire covering general questions such as age, sex, years on staff, mobility etc. as well as more specific questions about their expectations of a professional association in general, and their reasons for joining/not joining or leaving AIIC in particular, as well as providing space for comments which we hoped would be constructive.

The questionnaire was divided into three sections. The first nine questions were common to members and non-members. Questions 10 to 13 were specific to non-members, and questions 14 to 18 were specific to members. Comments could be made freely at the end of the last two sections. The questionnaire was anonymous. The questions were drafted to the best of our abilities through an exchange of e-mails and at our meeting in the autumn of 2006. One comment received said that they were contradictory and tendentious and that we should have asked for expert help. Another proclaimed it an excellent questionnaire. It is true that the questions with multiple-choice answers were very much a reflection of our own, perhaps limited, views of e.g. what a professional association can do. We did not think that a perfectly open question with no suggested replies would solicit much response. There was always the possibility of respondents adding information. We have not found contradiction in any responses. Perhaps we should have consulted the experts - at a price. If AIIC wishes to take it further- and there is probably a lot of room for further analysis- we would be happy to make all the material available to the experts.

At the beginning of 2007 the questionnaire was sent out in two ways. Regular members of the CdP were asked to send the questionnaire to the colleagues in their organisation and elicit responses in any form i.e. on paper or electronically, which could be returned to the CdP member concerned or directly to the President of the CdP, who centralised all the returned copies. The President also sent out an e-mail to a randomly-selected staff member in all other organisations where an AIIC staff member exists, asking them to circulate the survey amongst their colleagues and return the completed copies to the President - again either on paper or electronically, directly or indirectly.

The 11 organisations regularly participating in the CdP which took part in the survey and constituted the main body of replies were:

Council of Europe; European Commission; European Parliament; Federal Government of Canada; ICAO; IMF; NATO; UNGeneva, UNNew York, UNVienna; OECD.

The ICC which also regularly participates in the CdP was, however, included in the 'rest of the world' figures where the other International Courts were. NATO Defense College and FAO, also regular members, but with very few staff interpreters, did not take part in the survey.

The 16 organisations which took part in the survey from 'the rest of the world' were:

African Union; Civil Service Bureau, Hong Kong; European Court of Justice; George C. Marshall European Centre for Security Studies; German Ministry of Defence; Institut Africain de Développement et de Planification; Inter-American Development Bank; International Criminal Court; International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; International Labour Office; International Railway Union; Radio Vatican; Secretariat of the Pacific Community; U.S. Department of State; World Meteorological Organisation.

III. The processing of the results

The results were processed in two phases:

Phase 1

The results of each of the 11 organisations participating regularly in the CdP were collated individually and a report drafted for the attention of the representative concerned.

Phase II

The results from all of the participating organisations were merged to produce the final report which follows the format of the individual reports but summarises the comments and adds conclusions.

Most of the first group of 9 questions for both members and non-members required a straightforward yes/no answer or a figure. These were then simply added to give a final figure and/or percentage, or, e.g. in the case of question 1 on age, divided into 4 age-brackets, and in the case of questions 3 and 4 on 'career' analysed superficially as mere averages unless certain elements of interest gave rise to further comment. A few coy respondents did not give an age, and this was estimated according to the formula 'no. years worked +25', which we realise adds a margin of error to the age brackets, though probably no more than the answers already contain!

Question 7 called for multiple responses and the indication of a single priority. Not all respondents indicated this priority. Some indicated several, or confused the indication of priority 'A' with the 'tick' of an ordinary response. Finally, no more than 2 priorities were allowed for each reply to a multiple-choice question (it was decided that colleagues might decide that two elements of a response were of equally high value, but no more). No priority was calculated if all the responses were indicated as a 'priority' (these few cases were considered to have been confusion by the respondents). The combination of indication of priority and ordinary response sometimes led to difficulties in establishing an exact order of results where e.g. there was only a slight difference in the number of ordinary responses but a great difference in the number of priorities given to some elements of a question. We are not statisticians, and we do not think this was the most important concern. The general impression was clear, as far as the questions were clear. The figures are there, you are free to make your own corrections to the 'order' we gave. This question also proposed the deletion of some elements, which led to the need to further split the results as shown in the tables e.g. as 7bi), 7bii) etc.

The second and third groups of questions, for non-members and members respectively, likewise each contained one or more multiple-choice questions which gave rise to the same problems as question 7 and which were dealt with in the same way. Question 12, which had originally been divided into 'reasons for leaving' and 'reasons for not joining', was merged at some point in drafting - probably to shorten the questionnaire. During analysis it was found that these two elements were better separated, thus giving rise to the distinction between 'previous members' and 'never members' in the tables.

We believe the results are statistically significant. Amongst the organisations regularly participating in the CdP, the EP and SCIC only obtained <30% replies from their massive staff interpreter populations, whilst UNOV managed 88.9% (16/18) and FGC 77% (57/74) - but we shudder to think how much greater our task would have been if we had had to process such high response levels from the EP or SCIC! The CdP already covers the great majority of staff interpreters, we believe. We do not know exactly how many staff interpreters there are in the rest of the world. Many organisations did not reply at all, but the selection that did is quite impressive. The number of comments shows that colleagues did put thought into this exercise and some interesting suggestions were made.

We would like to thank all those who took part in the survey and hope that as many as possible will be interested to read the following report.

IV. The Results

Respondents: 409
Non-members: 264
Members: 145
Organisations: 27

African Union; Civil Service Bureau, Hong Kong; Council of Europe; European Commission; European Court of Justice; European Parliament; Federal Government of Canada; George C. Marshall European Centre for Security Studies; German Ministry of Defence; International Civil Aviation Organisation; International Monetary Fund; Institut Africain de Développement et de Planification; Inter-American Development Bank; International Criminal Court; International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; International Labour Organisation; International Railway Union; North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development; Radio Vatican; Secretariat of the Pacific Community; United Nations New York; United Nations Geneva; United Nations Vienna; United States Department of State; World Meteorological Organisation.

Questions 1-9 for members and non-members

Question 1

a) Name of your organisation

The above 27 organisations took part in the survey

b) Age: (see table below)

The age range gives a majority (63.3%) of respondents in the middle age groups 36-55 years, with slightly fewer in the youngest group (17.6%) than the oldest (19.1%). Since the upper two age groups outweigh the younger two, this confirms the results of the earlier study 'La Relève' on the need for younger elements in the profession. However, most staff (262/409 =64%) spend some time (an average of 8.3years according to this study) as FL, before joining organisations which often prefer staff to have previous interpreting experience. The imbalance may therefore be explained, except in those organisations where the average age has crept to over 50 years.

c) Sex:

As might have been expected, there were twice as many female (total 276) as male (total 133) respondents in both categories. AIIC members: 47 male, 98 female; non-members: 86 male, 178 female, thus reflecting the general situation in the profession.

Question 1b) Table

Rest of World

UNNY

EP

EC

FGC

NATO

Maximum age of respondents:

61

59

64

65

70

64

Minimum age of respondents:

29

28

27

28

24

32

Average age of respondents:

46,9

47,3

44,4

45,2

45,2

50

Age between 25 and 35:

4

5

24

18

14

2

Age between 36 and 45:

14

4

28

36

11

6

Age between 46 and 55:

16

11

25

37

20

6

Age between 56 and 65+

8

7

17

14

12

9

Total respondents:

42

27

94

105

57

23

UNOV

OECD

IMF

ICAO

C of E

UNOG

Totals

max. age

60

60

55

59

64

59

Max 70

min. age

34

44

43

34

33

33

Min 24

av. age

48,2

53,4

50,2

50,4

43,8

48,2

Av 47.6

25-35

1

0

0

1

1

2

72

(17.6%)

36-45

5

2

1

1

2

5

115

(28.1%)

46-55

8

4

4

3

0

10

144

(35.2%)

56-65+

2

3

0

3

1

2

78

(19.1%)

Respondents

16

9

5

8

4

19

409

(100.0%)

Question 2

a) Are you a member of AIIC?

145 respondents were members of AIIC, 264 non-members

b) Are you a member of another professional interpreters'/translators' association?

Only 34/409 were members of another interpreters'/translators' association, which surely gives potential for 'recruitment' to AIIC if it could find ways to encourage staff to join - especially as only 31/264 non-members (26/218 who had never been members) stated in answer to Q12h) that they were simply not interested in belonging to an interpreters' association.

Question 3

a) How long have you been a staff interpreter?
b) Were you a FL interpreter before becoming a staff interpreter?
c) If so, for how long?

The scope of this study did not allow for further analysis to give 'career profiles' , but the general results showed that most staff (262/409 respondents = 64%) had been FL before becoming staff (or sometimes also between periods of staffing), for an average of 8.3 years. Some interesting examples however showed that e.g. in the FGC only 21% had been FL before becoming staff, whereas in the OECD the average of FL years was a high 16.

Question 4

a) Were you a staff interpreter with any other organisation?
b) If so, how many others? (name them if you wish)

Only 83/409 (20.3%) said they had been staff with another organisation than the present one. Of these, not all answered b) or gave the names of previous organisations. Mobility between organisations is not high, with the exceptions of the (small) staff of IMF and the Council of Europe, whose respondents almost all came from other organisations. Some mobility was seen within 'families' of organisations e.g. UN or EU and the Courts showed a more mobile population.

Question 5

Did you train as an interpreter:

a) At an interpreting school?
b) In-house?
c) Self-taught?

The vast majority of respondents (303/409 = 74%) were trained at an interpreters' school and/or in-house (103/409 = 25.2%). Only 35 stated that they were self-taught, sometimes in combination with in-house training. To 'capture' members early it is vital for AIIC to be more present in the schools of interpretation and to be very clear about the message it conveys there.

Question 6

In general do you think that:

a) Staff and FL interpreters have roughly the same professional interests?
b) Staff and FL working in your Organisation are of similar quality?
c) There are good working relations between staff and FL?

On the whole, responses to these questions about staff/FL relations were very positive. 386/409 thought working relations between staff and FL were good; 335/409 thought staff and FL were of similar quality (some comments nuanced this answer to mean that all FL or all staff were not of the same quality, that the specific requirements/vocabulary of an Organisation might give staff an edge over FL colleagues, and one comment said that FL were better than staff); 296/409 thought staff and FL have roughly the same professional interests (various comments suggested that the perceived difference was a 'commercial' one).

Given that most staff have been FL at some point in their career, they should have an understanding of both sides of the profession, which should make an excellent basis for solidarity - and is probably an explanation for the answers to Q16 (solidarity as a reason for being a member) and Q7 (the importance given to the defence of working conditions).

Question 7

What would you expect a professional association to do for you?

(Multiple answers possible, please tick all those relevant to you and mark ‘A' the one most important to you.)

a) Inform you about developments/events/vacancies in the profession
b) Defend/participate in the negotiation of your working conditions (delete as necessary)
c) Set technical / ethical standards (delete as necessary)
d) Take the lead in major debates concerning the profession
e) Organise professional development courses
f) Contribute to interpreter selection procedures in interpreting schools / in your Organisation (delete as necessary)
g) Organise networking/exchanges
h) Organise specific activities for staff interpreters (any suggestions?)
i) Other

Question 7 Table Non-members (264)/Members (145)

Q7a

Q7bi

Q7bii

Q7ci

Q7cii

Q7d

Non-members

184

211

201

223

217

165

Priorities

23

99

95

39

37

14

Order

E

A

B

C

D

F

Members

109

124

120

134

135

115

Priorities

8

62

60

29

28

5

Order

E

A

B

C

C

D

Combined

293

335

321

357

352

280

Priorities

31

161

155

68

65

19

Order

E

A

B

C

D

F

Q7e

Q7fi

Q7fii

Q7g

Q7h

Q7i

Non-members

145

61

40

123

30

4

Priorities

9

2

2

2

2

1

Order

G

I

J

H

K

L

Members

92

58

32

86

40

7

Priorities

8

1

1

3

0

0

Order

F

H

J

G

I

K

Combined

237

119

72

209

70

11

Priorities

17

3

3

5

2

1

Order

G

I

J

H

K

L

This was the first question where colleagues were asked to mark a priority as well as ticking an ordinary response. Despite the problems encountered with this method (see earlier chapter 'The processing of results') the results were quite clear, as shown in the table.

There was no significant difference between the answers of members and non-members, with only a slight difference in their respective order of preference (see table).

Expectations of a professional association of interpreters were clearly in favour of defending/negotiating working conditions and setting standards. Whilst the highest number of ordinary responses were given to the setting of technical standards (357 responses with 68 priorities), followed by the setting of ethical standards (352 responses with 65 priorities), there was an overwhelming number of priority votes given to defending working conditions (335 responses with 161 priorities) and to participating in the negotiation of working conditions (321 responses with 155 priorities). We therefore classed the latter two elements 'A' and 'B', making working conditions the priority concern for colleagues, followed by the setting of technical standards (C) and ethical standards (D).

Next (E) came the more classic task of an association to inform members about developments etc. in the profession (293 responses with 31 priorities). Taking the lead in major debates concerning the profession (F) scored 280 responses with 19 priorities. (The members reversed the order of preference for the two previous elements). Perhaps surprisingly, the organisation of professional development courses (G) received 237 responses with 17 priorities - and many proposals were made about the organisation of 'refresher' courses, language courses, 'consecutive' courses etc., showing at least a lack of complacency amongst staff, who may not find their own organisation willing to help in the organisation of such things. Similarly, the organisation of networking/exchanges (H) received 209 responses with 5 priorities: many staff seem to feel the need to reach out beyond the confines of their own organisation, without going as far as to change employer. Smaller organisations do not offer a large variety of subjects or colleagues to alter the 'tedium' of the job, and in any case it is always interesting to know how things are done elsewhere.

Contributing to the selection procedures in schools of interpretation (I) received 119 responses with 3 priorities and was far more popular (and in many organisations more feasible) than contributing to selection procedures in the Organisation (J) (72 responses with 3 priorities). The staff themselves were not necessarily asking for specific activities within AIIC (K) (70 responses with 2 priorities) although some suggestions for activities were made, which could however seldom be seen as exclusive to staff. (Again, the members reversed the order of preference of the latter two elements)

'Other' (L) scored 11 responses with 1 priority, but mostly without further explanation.

Question 8

Did you receive any information about AIIC:

a) During your training?
b) During your working career?
c) Never?

269/409 respondents said they received information about AIIC during their career and 197 during training. 61 said they never received any information - including 6 members, who presumably fail to receive the information even from the central secretariat. This is clearly a deficit area, and comments show that a more 'hands on' approach is expected (rather than information being passed on 'by word of mouth' or by 'other colleagues'). Seen in connection with Q5 (showing that most staff are trained in schools of interpretation) it seems there is a specific need to act in schools - but in any case the information given about AIIC should not be, as one non-member complained: 'only about the cumbersome admission procedures'.

Question 9

Do you think that:

a) AIIC plays an active role in your Organisation? Y/N
b) It would be a good thing for more staff interpreters to join AIIC? Y/N

Although only 46% (188/409) thought that AIIC played an active role in their organisation, 59% (241/409) thought that more should join. In many organisations the views of the two categories members/non-members were reversed in this question i.e. members thought AIIC did not play an active role and that more staff should join, whereas non-members thought AIIC did play an active role and that it was not necessary for more staff to join. This perhaps reflects differing expectations of what AIIC can or should be doing in the Organisations: the members thinking it could do more, especially if it had more members; the non-members thinking it does more than they might expect and there is no need for more to join to make it more effective (or let the few work for the many?).The general results, however, give an equal number of non-members responding 'yes' to both parts of the question (113 responses each), whereas the members' views were confirmed (75 answered 'yes' to a) and 128 answered 'yes' to b)). It is perhaps obvious for more members to think that others should join, but if almost 43% (113/264) of non-members also think so, then why don't they join?

Questions 10-13 for non-members only

Question 10

Were you ever a member of AIIC?

Of 264 non-members, 46 had previously been members

Question 11 (only if you answered 'yes' to Q.10)

When did you cease to be a member of AIIC?

a) Before you became a staff interpreter
b) On becoming a staff interpreter
c) During your career as a staff interpreter

Most of the 46 left AIIC during their staff career. If we added these to the number of respondents who are members (145+46 = 191), then the drop-out rate would be 24%! A combination of the answers to Q12 and Q17a) give the reasons for drop-out. Since most respondents, with the notable exceptions of 'the rest of the world' and the 'FGC', join AIIC before becoming staff, i.e. as FL, this figure and that of the answer to Q17a) clearly shows where one of the major problems of staff membership lies: staff see AIIC as an association for FL.

Question 12

What are/were your reasons for leaving or not joining AIIC?

(Multiple answers possible, please tick all those relevant to you and mark ‘A' the one most important to you)

a) You know nothing or too little about AIIC
b) Because of the sponsorship procedure for admission
c) Membership fees are too high
d) You were not accepted for membership
e) Your Organisation or hierarchy prefers you not to be a member
f) You are represented / your working conditions are negotiated by other bodies
g) You think that AIIC is irrelevant to staff interpreters
h) You are simply not interested in belonging to an interpreters' association
i) You were opposed to another person(s) being accepted into AIIC
j) You forgot to pay your fee
k) You think that AIIC cannot maintain the professional standards it set
l) You do/ did not agree with AIIC policies / the attitude of its members (please delete as necessary and explain briefly)
m) Other

Question 12 Table: Previous members (46)/never members (218)

Q12a

Q12b

Q12c

Q12d

Q12e

Q12f

Q12g

Previous members

0

2

26

0

0

17

25

Priorities

0

2

6

0

0

2

4

Order

I

A

C

B

Never members

56

80

80

1

3

91

53

Priorities

18

22

18

0

1

29

9

Order

D

B

C

M

L

A

E

Q12h

Q12i

Q12j

Q12k

Q12li

Q12lii

Q12m

Previous members

5

5

5

14

12

13

2

Priorities

0

1

1

4

1

1

0

Order

H

G

G

D

F

E

J

Never members

26

6

0

21

22

31

20

Priorities

8

0

0

4

4

6

8

Order

G

K

J

I

F

H

Question 12 was another multiple-choice question subject to the same difficulties as question 7. The results have been divided into reasons given by previous members for leaving, and reasons given by never-members for not joining, which are obviously different.

Of the 46 previous members, 26 (with 6 priorities) said they left because of the high fees (A); 25 (with 4 priorities) because they thought AIIC irrelevant to staff (B); 17(with 2 priorities) because they are represented by other bodies(C); 14 (with 4 priorities) because they think AIIC cannot maintain the professional standards it set (D); 13(with 1 priority) because of the attitude of members (E) (which is worrying and deserves reflection in the light of some comments); 12 (with 1 priority) because they disagreed with AIIC policy (F); and 5 each because of being opposed to another person's admission to AIIC (with 1 priority) (G), forgetting to pay (with 1 priority) (G), or being simply not interested (H). 2 disliked the sponsorship procedure (with 2 priorities) (I); and 2 quoted 'other' with no explanation (J).

For the 218 who had never been members, 91 (with 29 priorities) said they did not join because they were represented by other bodies (A); 80(with 22 priorities) disliked the sponsorship procedure (B); 80 (with 18 priorities) said the fees were too high (C); 56 (with 18 priorities) said they knew too little about AIIC (D) (cf. the replies to Q8); 53(with 9 priorities) thought AIIC irrelevant to staff (E) (but this is 'only' 24.3% of this category of respondents) ; 31(with 6 priorities) disliked the attitude of members (F) ( worrying, as above, because according to comments AIIC does not seem to have shaken off its 'elitist' image); 26 (with 8 priorities) were simply not interested in joining (G); 20 (with 8 priorities) quoted 'other' mostly with no further explanation (H); 22 (with 4 priorities) said they disagreed with AIIC policy (I), but usually without saying precisely which policy; 21( with 4 priorities) thought AIIC couldn't maintain the standards it set (J); 6 were opposed to someone else's admission into AIIC (K); 3 (with 1 priority) said their hierarchy preferred them not to be members (L); and 1 said they had not been accepted for membership (M).

Question 13

Under what conditions would you consider (re)joining AIIC?

(Multiple answers possible, please tick all those relevant to you and mark ‘A' the one most important to you)

a) If admission procedures were simplified
b) If the membership fee were reduced
c) If AIIC could play a role in improving your working conditions
d) If you were to become a FL in the future
e) If AIIC organised more activities for staff interpreters (any suggestions?)
f) Other

Q13 Table: Previous members (46)/never members (218)

Q13a

Q13b

Q13c

Q13d

Q13e

Q13f

Previous members

3

20

11

18

4

2

Priorities

1

6

5

9

0

1

Order

E

A

C

B

D

F

Never members

83

82

67

114

24

20

Priorities

23

14

14

45

4

11

Order

B

C

D

A

E

F

Another multiple choice question, this one was divided like Q12 into responses from previous members, who were presumably saying under what circumstances they might rejoin, and those who had never been members saying under what circumstances they might join.

Of the 46 previous members, 20(with 6 priorities) said they would consider rejoining if the fee were reduced (A); 18(with 9 priorities) if they were to become FL (B); 11(with 5 priorities) if AIIC could play a role in improving working conditions (C); 4 if AIIC organised more activities for staff interpreters (D); 3(with 1 priority) if the (re)admission procedure were simplified (E); 2 (with 1 priority) quoted 'other' (F) without further explanation, although it could also cover those who said they would not consider rejoining.

Of the 218 who had never been members, 114(with 45 priorities) said a condition for joining would be if they became FL (A), thus agreeing with the 18 previous members (above), and with the 120 members who, under Q17a) said they thought AIIC was more useful for FL. In some organisations a correlation was made to link the ages of the respondents to this answer, which showed that it is not only the older staff members who are thinking of becoming FL again and therefore (re)joining AIIC, but that it was a consideration throughout the various age groups. It should not be forgotten that many staff are no longer on 'permanent' contracts, may be subject to downsizing, or to changing language regimes in their Organisation which might mean their post as interpreter is not for a lifetime, or they simply dream of 'freedom' again one day. 83(with 23 priorities) said a condition for joining was to have simplified admission procedures (B); 82(with 14 priorities) asked for a reduced fee (C); 67 (with 14 priorities) wanted AIIC to play a role in improving working conditions (D) (perhaps it should be explained to them that in some cases it already does: by negotiating working conditions together with staff and FL, or as 'unheralded' individual participants in staff delegations/committees/TUs); 24 (with 4 priorities) asked for more activities for staff (E); and 20 (with 11 priorities) quoted 'other' (F) without explanation, although some of these might be those who implied they would never consider membership.

Questions 14-18 for members only

Question 14

When did you join AIIC?

a) Before becoming a staff interpreter
b) During your career as a staff interpreter

The majority of the members (86/145) joined AIIC before becoming staff, although 58 did so during their career (1 did not reply). The exceptions to this general rule were colleagues from the 'rest of the world' (11 joined before becoming staff and 18 during their staff career) and the FGC (1 joined before becoming staff and 13 during their staff career).

Question 15

Do you consider yourself an 'active' member, i.e.:

a) Do you attend AIIC meetings?
b) Do you belong to any AIIC committees, working groups etc?

Only 66/145 (45.5%) say they attend meetings and very few (19/145) are members of a group or committee, which is a pity given that a lot of staff seem to be looking for contacts outside their own Organisation (see Q7 - 209 responses, of which 86 members, in favour of networking/exchanges). Perhaps this is an area where AIIC could 'sell itself ' more.

Question 16

What are your present reasons for belonging to AIIC?

(Multiple answers possible, please tick all those relevant to you and mark ‘A' the one most important to you)

a) To express solidarity with the profession in general
b) To support its 'trade union' or 'pressure group' activities in particular
c) Because membership confers a certain 'prestige'
d) For its publications / website / networking opportunities (delete as necessary)
e) Because you may wish to become a FL at some point in your career
f) Other

Present reasons for belonging to AIIC may not be the same as those which led colleagues to join - especially as most joined when they were FL. The great majority (139/145 with 59 priorities) say they are now members in order to express solidarity with the profession in general (A) - although many comments show that this is considered to be 'expensive solidarity'. Unfortunately, it is often also a very passive solidarity (see Q15), and perhaps AIIC should worry that without a more solid reason for membership the drop-out rate (see Q11) might rise. Over 60%, 89 (with 24 priorities) say it is to support 'trade union' or 'pressure group' activities (B), probably very often together with FL colleagues to protect working conditions.

With 47 responses and 9 priorities, almost one-third of colleagues say they remain members in case they become FL in the future (C) - and not necessarily only on retirement (see Q13). With more responses but fewer priorities (53 responses and 2 priorities) networking opportunities (D) were an important reason for membership (see also Q7), although probably few staff members use AIIC potential for this to the full (see Q15). 51(with 1 priority) said they were members for the publications (E) and 50(with 2 priorities) for the website (F). 49 (with 3 priorities) quoted the 'prestige' of membership (G) and 7(with 1 priority) gave 'other' (H) as a reason, seldom with any explanation.

Question 17

a) Do you think that AIIC is more useful to FL than to staff interpreters? Y/N
b) Do you think AIIC could do more for staff interpreters? (any suggestions?) Y/N

120/145 (82.8%) members thought AIIC more useful to FL (see various comments above) and 81/145 (55.9%) thought it could do more for staff. Since replies to Q7 did not necessarily ask for specific activities for staff (only 40 members, with no priorities, expected specific activities to be organised for staff), only 4 of 46 previous members said specific activities for staff might be a reason for rejoining (Q13), and few suggestions were made here, one has to look for answers as to what more AIIC could do for staff in the comments under Q18. Where AIIC, or at least some of its regions, do organise e.g. 'refresher' courses for some languages, do staff take advantage of them? Will they be interested in the new offers of 'non-work activities' which PriMS is preparing to organise through the AIIC site?

Question 18

If you are dissatisfied with AIIC, could you explain here briefly why?

Few members expressed actual dissatisfaction with AIIC, although many comments complain that the fees are too high and the services to staff too few; that AIIC concentrates too much on FL, that it doesn't do enough to protect working conditions, etc. Some quoted specific events about which they were dissatisfied.

A summary of comments -good and bad - from members and non-members follows.

V. Comments from respondents

Comments from non-members and members obviously diverge, not least because of the differing amounts of information they have about AIIC. A recurrent theme was the need for more information to be given more directly and more 'formally' from AIIC to both categories of staff. Topics which interest both, such as further training, received similar comments from both. The following is a summary of comments received.

A. Comments from non-members

As an example of the vituperate non-member who it is unlikely we shall ever see as a member, we can quote the following:

'AIIC lives in an ivory tower and has a guild mentality focussed on status quo. Trade unions are a thing of the past. Organisation X pays my salary, X gets my service. AIIC seeks to get in the way and tell me what service I'm allowed to provide. It infringes on my freedom of work'.

We will never convert the die-hards - and probably not those who, unfortunately, still see the 'old' image of AIIC where members are: 'aloof; haughty; elitist; aggressive; they don't stick to their own rules; they have double standards; they are not of high quality in the booth; they are arrogant to newcomers, blocking their way not guiding them; a mafia of old ladies defending a monopoly' etc. But we could do something to improve our image by improving our behaviour and remembering this lingering image and its devastating effects.

Apart from some individual complaints about 'disagreeable reminder letters' for not paying fees (are they disagreeable? - we should check); 'an AIIC article on Eastern European interpreters which was published at the time of EU enlargement which was outrageous'; 'staff/FL relations in SCIC are marred by the reports procedure' (a comment on Q6); one person having problems with the language classification for admission etc., the majority of comments from non-members concerned the sponsorship procedure for admission, which was viewed as 'an unpleasant prospect'; 'not easy for eastern Europeans'; 'not transparent'; 'more like 'copinage'; 'not based on quality but on friendships'; 'subjective and unfair - especially for unusual language combinations and professional domiciles'; 'cumbersome'; 'no longer at all credible'; 'sponsors shouldn't have to belong to the region for which one is applying to belong'. One comment also criticised the readmission procedure (after forgetting to pay dues) for being too complicated.

Many felt they had not received enough information from AIIC - and obviously expected it to come not 'informally' or 'by word of mouth' but therefore probably in the form of specifically organised meetings or in writing - which the CdP representatives must follow up on: 'AIIC should inform staff much more about its activities. Most of us know nothing and therefore never envisaged membership. Staff and freelance would be well-advised to unite to defend their interests'.

From the enticement point of view, many comments and suggestions concerned further training, which reflects the results of question 7, on expectations of a professional association, where 7e), organising professional development courses, whilst not one of the first responses, nevertheless received many hits: 'not enough is done on further training and there is no reflection about the future of the profession' said one; others, like the members, wanted AIIC to organise 'refresher courses' etc.. Several comments suggested AIIC should be 'more supportive of newcomers to the profession'; 'it needs a real policy for newcomers'; 'AIIC could do more to target young PECO (Eastern European) interpreters'.

On the subject of fees, which both members and non-members considered too high for staff, one non-member suggested 'a pick and choose menu, with a basic package at a lower rate and a higher fee for more services such as web mail'. One comment said that the website was so difficult to navigate that it took him/her a long time to see how high the fees actually are.

It is, of course, impossible to please all of the people all of the time, and whilst the quotation at the beginning of this chapter reflects one line of thought, another non-member wrote: 'AIIC should become more than a façade and more a real trade union and more militant. AIIC only represents itself'. Whilst one non-member thought that 'fully retired staff should not work on the private market', another said that 'AIIC policy towards retired staff must change before I would consider joining' (i.e. there should be no discrimination against retired staff working as freelances).

Some non-members reinvented the CdP:

'AIIC could organise meetings of staff interpreters to discuss best practices/handling of work-related issues that come up in a staff environment'

'Every organisation is different and has different interpretation requirements. However, I have found that problems related to the way the service is provided in an international organisation are often very similar, and permanent staff would benefit from knowing how matters are handled in each environment - referring to work-load distribution, respect for professional standards, the combination of simultaneous interpretation with other duties etc. This is where AIIC could play an important role for permanent interpreters'.

Finally, a very wise comment was made by a non-member: 'AIIC is not irrelevant, but the advantages may not be so immediately apparent where working conditions are already in place and are not under threat'.

B. Comments from members

Given the high percentage of members who gave as their main reason for being a member now (as opposed to when they first joined) as showing solidarity with the profession in general, it is not surprising to read many comments about the 'high fees' seen as 'an expensive show of solidarity'; 'exorbitant'; 'a rich man's club'; 'should be reduced by half'; 'should be reduced by 2/3 and cut out the 'glossies', I can find the information I need on the website'. Many thought a special rate should be given to staff who, it was generally considered, did not enjoy the same benefits as the freelance. One member says: 'In 16 years I've never asked for nor received any service', but another, in a more positive comment, says: 'I'm a member to gain credibility, to know what's going on in the profession, and to show commitment to it'.

Working conditions, their defence or negotiation, are a main concern of all staff interpreters (and of all interpreters, probably). They were the most 'A'-marked priority in answer to question 7 about expectations of a professional association. One dissatisfied member wrote: 'less and less importance is given to working conditions, and admission criteria have been drastically reduced, thereby lowering quality control', thus covering two birds with one stone. Many comments called for AIIC to take greater interest in technical standards and working conditions - especially in the new forms of interpreting - and update those standards that exist. One suggestion was that AIIC should do an 'audit of the technical specifications in facilities' (rather like the technical sheet that was used for private market installations). Another called for a 'report on quality SI systems' in order to convince organisations to install them. As one member wrote: 'AIIC should make its technical and ethical standards more well-known to our employer and exercise pressure to get them applied'; and another: 'In defending/participating in the negotiation of working conditions, AIIC could help by providing information enabling comparisons to be made between employers'. Fortunately, not all AIIC's efforts have gone unnoticed: 'AIIC does play an active role in our organisation, since it's obvious that the hierarchy consults AIIC texts when organising our work (team size, working hours)'; 'I think AIIC's work on videoconferencing and manning strengths is useful and it's always helpful to have a professional organisation to refer to when dealing with Management within an organisation'.

Like non-members, some members complain about ethical standards not being respected, either individually or, in this case, collectively: 'Too much time is spent on in-fighting, short-sighted and greedy colleagues who don't care about the damage they do to the profession. I think it very important for all colleagues, permanent and FL to present a united front. The international organisations are very familiar with the principle of 'divide and rule'.

But of course the ancient divide between AIIC as an all-englobing trade-union-like body or as a 'stamp of quality' was often reflected: 'AIIC is too focussed on expanding and attracting new members at the expense of quality of performance and versatility' as opposed to: 'if we increase the number of our staff in AIIC we would have more weight and make sure AIIC standards are respected in our collective agreement and working conditions' or a note of nostalgia which also recognises present needs: 'Although I do feel that AIIC serves a very important purpose by defending the profession's working conditions, I do feel that it has lost what I used to consider its main function: when I joined, joining AIIC was the utmost seal of approval and it vouched for the quality of the candidate's performance and compliance with ethical standards. Now AIIC has become more of a union, and membership in no way guarantees quality. I also find the profession is still discussing many of the same issues that it faced when I joined some 30 years ago, so maybe some things never get settled!'

Obviously, given the results for question 17, one main problem with AIIC for staff members is that they see it as a freelance organisation, and many of the comments under point 18 reflected this - but several non-European members also see it as too Eurocentric: 'I think the time has come for AIIC to take a more active role outside of Europe, expanding beyond the traditional international organisations and that aspect of conference interpretation. It would help the market immensely as well as help to develop the future of interpretation for today's and tomorrow's professionals' (it might be interesting to find out into exactly which areas AIIC should move). One non-European member also wrote: ' Our in-house representatives seem very active and represent us well at international level, but I don't know how much sway they hold within the organisation'.

Whereas, on the whole, respondents said they received less information about AIIC during training than during their career, we should be aware of what one member says: 'During training, we were given the impression by an AIIC member who taught us, that AIIC was like the holy grail, almost impossible to join, only for the elite few'. Another suggested that AIIC needed to do more PR work in Eastern Europe, e.g. in the universities. There was a call for specific information, for example updates on the situation on the free market, information meetings for colleagues from the new EU member states, and a disgruntled member in the EU complained of there being 'no written statement from AIIC, which lacks influence on every front, nor any information given to staff about the situation of the FL when the 'affair' of service fusion between the EC, EP and ECJ occurred'. Another complained about the absence of communication from their Region, saying they wouldn't know if there were ever any AIIC activities.

Visibility and communication were another topic of comments such as: 'AIIC should enhance its visibility: people hiring AIIC members should know they are being provided with a quality service' or 'AIIC should be more obviously a member of the interpreters' delegation'; 'It is important for a profession to show solidarity to make it more visible and solid. It is in this way that I think AIIC is important for us'. The need for more AIIC visibility in smaller organisations was apparent in the suggestion that AIIC should be a 'watchdog for the small organisations' and: 'Staff in smaller organisations have more need of AIIC than in the EU institutions which have their own internal structures'.

A few members complained about the sponsorship procedure for admission and one said: 'it is cumbersome and humiliating; I wouldn't have done it if I'd joined as staff'.

In general, many suggestions were made as to what AIIC should do for staff, many of which concerned the organisation of refresher/third language training/ consecutive and 'retour'/ specialised topics in interpreting seminars. They also wanted AIIC to organise visits to other organisations (they should join the CdP!). More information was called for, and meetings of staff to discuss common topics, audits on facilities and reports on quality SI systems, a move into other areas of interpretation etc., as reported above. There was a call for glossaries to be put on the AIIC site, for job vacancies to be updated there more often - and for the site to be reorganised to make it easier to find reference texts. One thought a team of professional negotiators would help AIIC to do a better job (we think they mean in freelance negotiations). A very specific proposal was made by two members of the ICC: 'AIIC could host a networking/AIIC recruitment event open to all staff in a given city. Staff in different organisations in the same city often don't know each other. For instance, an annual 'drinks' hosted by AIIC in the Hague for staff interpreters from all the organisations ( perhaps with Hague-based FL) might be attended by a couple of dozen (AIIC and non-AIIC ) staff interpreters. It would be an opportunity for AIIC to run an event for their fee-paying staff members, bolster relations among staff in different organisations and encourage non-aiics to join. Such a networking event might also be useful in other cities hosting various organisations with staff.' Another member wanted AIIC to provide audiovisual material to introduce the profession - an excellent idea for the training committee?

One special suggestion was for an AIIC fund to help the families of war-zone interpreters who have been killed or injured (an interesting idea in the light of a recent article by Eduardo Kahane).

At the end of this chapter we offer two quotations from members:

'AIIC should sell itself to non-members, because without its lead we wouldn't have our working conditions and reference point outside'.

'Sometimes I think AIIC is too slow to evolve and that it simply reacts to the situation on the ground, rather than taking a proactive role. I don't see how this can change, however, because AIIC activities are conducted by volunteers. Very few of us have the time to invest and are willing to make the effort.

VI. Conclusions and Recommendations

Generally speaking, we believe that the survey has shown that there is potential for increasing staff membership of AIIC, and also for preventing 'drop out' (shown here as 24% amongst staff). Changes to activities/information/communication policy will help, but the most difference may only be made by changes to basic AIIC policy.

AIIC is still almost the only interpreter association which staff join (only 34 of the 409 respondents to this survey said they were members of another interpreters' association). There is no general aversion to joining AIIC, 43% of non-members said they thought more staff interpreters should join. The fact that they don't, lies to some extent out of AIIC control: the main reason given for non-members not to join was because they are represented by other bodies. There are, however, other reasons for not joining where AIIC can act: on the sponsorship procedure for admission; the high fees; the lack of information about AIIC etc.

83% of present staff members believe that AIIC is more useful to freelance than staff. They give their main reason for remaining members as general solidarity with the profession, but also to support its trade union or pressure group activities. These two reasons are important in the IOs and it would be useful if more staff were to join and stay in AIIC - not only to provide more resources for the association, but also to maintain the unity of the profession in the IOs. It is in all our interests for the Association to be strong in order to have more negotiating power within the IOs, where strength lies in numbers and support, whether in pushing through AIIC values in staff negotiations with Management, or in staff support for FL in their negotiations. In order to recruit and keep staff members in AIIC, it needs to address their concerns. Whereas it may not be easy to address their main concern: working conditions, there are other areas where AIIC could do more for staff or could draw more attention to what it is already doing.

The following conclusions and recommendations address the above in greater detail and are based on both the answers and the comments to the survey.

A. Why staff interpreters don't join AIIC: possible responses to encourage them to join

1. Staff interpreters are represented by other bodies which negotiate their working conditions.

The survey showed that the main reason for those who were never members not to join AIIC is that they are represented by other bodies (91/218 said this), and it was also the third reason for leaving for previous members. In many organisations staff interpreters' working/travel conditions (and of course pay) are negotiated not by the interpreters themselves but by other bodies representing the staff as a whole. AIIC cannot play a role there, or can do so only through individual members' participation in internal trade union bodies, staff delegations etc.

When asked what their expectations of an interpreters' association were, the vast majority of respondents answered that it should defend or negotiate working conditions, followed by setting technical standards. This shows that staff may not be satisfied with the results produced by internal bodies which represent them and are looking for help elsewhere. AIIC does set or help to set technical standards, and in some IOs AIIC can directly defend or even participate in the negotiation of staff working conditions. Indeed, AIIC's trade union/pressure group activities were the second most important reason for staff to remain members, thus recognising AIIC's efforts in this field for themselves and for the FL. The defence and negotiation of working conditions and the setting of technical standards must remain an important activity which AIIC must try to offer as a service to staff. It needs to remain a visible reference point in this field. Individual AIIC staff members should try to influence representative bodies in IOs and AIIC must disseminate information about best practices, technical standards etc. and show how it is remaining instrumental in maintaining and improving working conditions in IOs.

Recommendations

  • CdP members and staff members in general should try to participate in their Organisations' staff committees, trade unions, interpreter delegations etc in order to try to improve interpreter working conditions. AIIC interpreters in management roles should not forget the rules/recommendations of their Association but should try to promote them whenever possible.
  • Staff members could be allowed to participate in AIIC Negotiating Techniques seminars to help them with their own negotiations with management.
  • CdP could consider drafting a list of best practices concerning working conditions to encourage their Administrations to implement them.
  • The Technet could undertake (or republish/update if it has already done so) a comparative study of simultaneous interpretation systems likely to be used in IOs, in order to help members in those Organisations wishing to change/update theirs (provided this is not incompatible with the statutes of a non-profit making association). Otherwise, reminders could be put on the Extranet that AIIC does have information about SI systems for those requiring it.

2. The sponsorship procedure for admission is a deterrent to staff interpreters

The sponsorship procedure for admission was the second most important reason given by non-members for not joining AIIC (for 80/218 of those who had never been members), with many comments about it being 'cumbersome' or even humiliating. The sponsorship procedure, in the absence of a true selection procedure, is seen by the Association as a guarantee of quality. Quality is an important sales argument on the private market: a better-quality interpreter should command more work, a better fee, better working conditions, greater consideration etc. The sponsorship procedure, or at least some form of selection, is therefore of primary importance to FL. The quality of staff in most IOs is tested through difficult entrance examinations (the CdP already provided AIIC with the details of these) or, in some, by expecting prospective candidates to have a long and successful FL career behind them, or by training future staff to their own requirements in their own training programmes. Quality is not an absolute value, and differs in both the staff and the FL world, but few would question the quality of most staff selected by the specific procedures of the IOs. The staff interpreters believe their quality has already been tested and should not be again. We recall that a proposal was made at the last Assembly, supported by the CdP, to facilitate membership for staff interpreters, but was rejected. In the light of this survey, we believe this point should be reconsidered.

Recommendation

  • The CdP could make a proposal to Assembly on the possibility of facilitated admission to AIIC for staff interpreters.

3. The fees are too high (in relation to services offered)

The high membership fee was the third reason given for not joining by those who were never members, and the main reason for leaving for previous members. Whilst those who were never members presumably see this in absolute terms rather than in relation to services provided, we must also see this in relation to the question of staff representation, as above. Many staff interpreters also pay dues to a trade union body which represents them within their Organisation and often deals with their main concern: working conditions. Somehow, the equation fees: services must balance. If AIIC cannot provide more services of interest to staff, then it may well need to take a new look at the fees structure or see a further dwindling of staff membership. Activities geared mainly to FL take up a large part of AIIC's budget. If staff cannot see how part of that budget is also spent for them, they may be unwilling to contribute to it. In the past, motions were brought to Assembly to try to reduce the fee for staff as an incentive for them to remain within the Association or to join. This was rejected by Assembly, but in the light of the present findings, some reconsideration might be necessary. We shouldn't forget that 43% of non-members thought that more staff should join. 20/46 previous members said they might consider rejoining if the fees were reduced and 82/218 who had never been members said so.

Recommendation

  • The CdP could make a proposal to Assembly on the possibility of a reduced fee for staff members or an amended fees structure for all members.

4. Non-members receive too little information about AIIC

The fourth reason given by non-members for not joining was that they knew too little about AIIC. For AIIC to recruit new members, both staff and FL, it is vital that the AIIC 'message' is first transmitted to students in schools, where the majority (74%) of interpreters train, in a way that is attractive and encouraging. Far more respondents said they received information about AIIC during their career than during training, where there seems to be a deficit. Most members join whilst they are FL, before becoming staff, so helping and informing young interpreters, both staff trainees and FL, is a good way of spreading a positive image of AIIC and recruiting new members. Obviously it is also important to provide more information about AIIC to staff during their career.

Recommendations

  • The Training Committee and Vega should agree on guidelines concerning the introduction of AIIC to students in schools, particularly on the 'message' and 'image' which is to be conveyed, taking into account comments in this survey that too much stress is placed on the admission procedures or on the elitist image of AIIC.
  • The TC and Communications Committee may wish to input ideas into the third part of the recently adopted project of E.Moggio, member of the CdP, to use material from the film 'The Interpreters, a Historical Perspective', with more material from the present-day, to produce an audiovisual introduction to the profession/AIIC, most particularly with a view to its use in schools
  • CdP members should make a bigger effort to inform/recruit non-members: see B2

B. Why staff members leave: how to retain our members

1. AIIC's activities are perceived as being geared primarily to freelance interpreters

According to this survey, 24% of staff members leave AIIC during their career. Although the main reason given for leaving was the high fee, the second reason was that they thought AIIC irrelevant to staff. 120/145 staff members think that AIIC is more useful to FL. 18/46 previous members and 114/218 never-members say they might (re)join if they become FL. Staff obviously do not see the link between what AIIC is doing and themselves. We have already dealt with the problem of staff representation and the defence/negotiation of working conditions in the IOs. Here we consider AIIC activities. In their replies to the question on staff expectations of an interpreters' association, after working conditions and setting technical and ethical standards (dealt with above and below), staff mentioned in order: information about developments/events/vacancies in the profession; taking the lead in major debates; the organisation of professional development courses; networking/exchanges; contributing to selection procedures in schools. In their suggestions for activities, such things as further training, 'language refresher courses' etc. often recurred. Many of AIIC's more visible activities, and which take up a lot of the budget, are geared more to the needs of FL. It is obvious that the Directory is of little concern to staff, nor are many Regional activities which are centred on FL problems, or even Sectoral negotiations (although there may be a 'knock-on' effect from them). Some of the less visible activities: working groups or networks dealing with technical matters or research, general questions of interest, training of new interpreters, etc. are of greater interest to staff. More activities/debates about matters of general interest to the profession could be organised in the IOs or in the Regions. Language refresher seminars organised through AIIC by individual Regions or bodies are precisely what many staff were calling for in the survey. Even seminars on negotiating techniques might interest some staff who are members of their own delegations and have to deal with Management (see recommendations on 'working conditions' above). The networking which many staff say they seek is a major concern of AIIC - but how many staff participate there and do some of these networks not need new blood? AIIC needs to 'sell' its less visible activities to staff, and encourage them to participate wherever possible. More events could be organised with them in mind. Many of the activities requested by staff are not staff-specific and are in many cases already offered within AIIC (although they could be augmented or better publicised). A more 'inclusive' approach could be taken by AIIC at all levels both in its activities and in its communications.

Recommendations

  • More Regional activities, even of a social nature, should aim at being deliberately more 'all-inclusive' or even specifically target staff whenever possible. Instead of 'regular business', special talks or debates of general interest could sometimes be organised.
  • AIIC could host a networking/AIIC recruitment event open to all staff in a given city (or even region). Staff in different organisations in the same city often don't know each other. An annual 'drinks' hosted by AIIC in one city for staff interpreters from all the organisations in that city/region might be attended by a couple of dozen (AIIC and non-AIIC ) staff interpreters. It would be an opportunity for AIIC to run an event for their fee-paying staff members, bolster relations among staff in different organisations and encourage non-members to join. Events like this could usefully be accompanied by an introduction to the AIIC website and activities. They could be organised jointly by the Region and the CdP.
  • AIIC activities of general interest e.g. language refresher courses, training of trainers etc. could carry a 'staff interpreters welcome' label when advertised, to encourage staff participation.
  • CdP members could organise more activities in their organisations (even 'consecutive' or 'retour' exercises where these have been mentioned in their individual survey reports) or talks/debates on specific subjects - making sure they are done under the 'AIIC' label if they are open to non-members.
  • Information about job vacancies in IOs should be sent more regularly to AIIC by the CdP or, wherever possible, directly from the organisations concerned.
  • PriMs proposals for 'non-work' activities to be organised through the website (sports events, house-swaps, hotel tips etc) should be implemented a.s.a.p.
  • AIIC could ask interpreters or International Organisations which have specialised glossaries to put them on the AIIC website or provide links to them and other terminology sites.

2. Staff interpreters are not sufficiently aware of AIIC's activities. There is a need to improve communication.

Very much linked to the previous point, this question arises mainly from an analysis of the comments made by respondents.

To a large extent, AIIC seems to be failing to inform staff interpreters about what it is actually doing in the profession - as shown by their comments suggesting that it should do more for newcomers to the profession (cf. the activities of Vega); for PR work to be done in Eastern Europe (cf. Teranga); on (New) Technology (Technet); organising refresher courses (viz. Italy, France, UK regions which regularly advertise courses); or even on working conditions where (apart from the fact that the basic working conditions in IO interpretation services are all based on AIIC provisions) AIIC does work on technical standards and it does sometimes intervene directly, but more often indirectly, to maintain or improve working conditions in IOs. This failure in communication may in some part be the fault of the CdP which does not act sufficiently as a relay for the 'AIIC message' to its interpreters. AIIC's influence on the profession or an IO may not be visible, especially to non-members, who need more information as we stated above. It may also be that AIIC's communication policy could be improved to make it easier for members to find information (on the website), to present it more attractively, or to provide it more directly or in different ways. It may, of course, also be that staff interpreters do not seek out information and have adopted a passive membership role. Comments suggested that staff expected information to be given to them directly rather than 'by word of mouth' or by needing to seek it out.

In the presentation of information about its activities, AIIC needs to find ways of reaching staff interpreters to show them that they too are concerned and that they can play an active role in the Association. The CdP needs to improve its role as intermediary and, because communication is a two-way channel, members (and non-members) must make the effort to seek information and be encouraged to do so (by CdP members, Regional officers etc). If we are not more outgoing (not to say proselytising) then at least as far as staff members are concerned, AIIC will remain a small circle of interested members moving within a closed environment.

Recommendations

  • CdP members should organise information meetings for members and non-members in their Organisation as a follow-up to the survey, taking up questions raised by it, pointing out the varied activities of AIIC and encouraging staff members to take part in seminars, networks, projects etc. and, for non-members, the advantages of joining. These meetings could usefully be accompanied by an introduction to the AIIC website.
  • CdP members should make a bigger effort to communicate with their members and also with non-members, especially interpreters new to the Organisation or to the profession
  • A fuller 'Calendar of Events' could be published by AIIC, allowing members and non-members to see a more comprehensive picture of AIIC activities, including Regional/Sectoral meetings, seminars, courses etc.
  • Regions could communicate more with members, especially on subjects/events of general interest
  • CdP members should relay information directly to staff members in the form of 'reminders' e.g. about courses which might interest them, points of interest at Regional meetings, Sectoral meetings etc (and remind staff that they can go to both of these or sign up on the AIIC website to receive information about the Sectors directly via their e-mail).
  • Any networks etc. requiring more correspondents could also inform the CdP, in order to relay this information to staff - TechNet? Friends of Communicate?
  • CCOM, which is already making good proposals to reorganise the website (see articles by L. Luccarelli), could think also of simplification, to make searches for up-to-date information about activities and events easier. The CdP must also rethink its input on the website, as it was asked to do.

3. AIIC has an image problem

The fourth reason given by members for leaving was that they thought AIIC could not maintain the professional standards it set, and the fifth was because of the attitude of members. The latter was also the sixth reason given by those who had never been members for not joining. 'Professionalism' which was referred to in some comments is not the same as the 'professional standards' of AIIC, but links both working conditions and attitude, behaviour etc. 'Professional standards' in IOs may not perfectly reflect those of AIIC, and we dealt with this problem under 'working conditions'. 'Attitude', however, concerns ethical standards and it is clear that these are important for both members and non-members, since setting ethical standards was the third most important activity expected of a professional association by members and fourth most important by non-members. It is important that AIIC should maintain these standards, but that it should also take care of the image it presents to the world. We already mentioned an image problem of AIIC in the schools of interpretation. Questions concerning the image of AIIC and its members were raised in several other comments. Whilst we believe that many of these comments refer to the past, perhaps to experience in schools or on markets before respondents became staff, it is vital that all members should take note of the fact that their behaviour, if perceived especially by new, young interpreters, as 'haughty, aloof, aggressive, elitist, protectionist' etc will have a very negative effect on non-members' desires to join the association, or on members' decisions to leave.

Recommendations

  • The CdP would like to remind all AIIC members that their attitude toward each other, their colleagues, and towards young interpreters in particular leaves a lasting impression which may greatly influence the decision of non-members to join or of members to remain or to leave AIIC.
  • The CdP asks Council to be vigilant in upholding the Code of Ethics in the interests of AIIC and the profession as a whole.

4. Staff interpreters should have more input into the governing bodies of AIIC

Although this point was not raised in the survey, the CdP believes that more staff input into the governing bodies of the Association would also help to redress the balance of AIIC and create more interest for staff members.

Whilst many AIIC activities concern the FL, it is obvious that a lot of Council or Bureau business (their meetings are also major budgetary items) also concerns the FL (Sectoral or Regional items). As we have seen, Sectoral questions largely cover FL agreements, with little input on staff problems in the same sectors, and many Regional activities are also eminently FL-oriented. Given that AIIC structures, and representation on Council, are based on the Regions, it is obvious that apart from those Regions with dual representation in AIIC and which are seats of major IOs (as in France and Belgium), it is unlikely that staff members will be represented there. At the moment, only 2 of 28 Council members are staff interpreters. In the interests of a greater flow of information and of a more 'inclusive' approach, to show staff that they are 'equals' in the association which they originally created, one wonders whether the CdP could not bring staff concerns more to the attention of the governing bodies by being more involved in their business, perhaps with a seat on Council?

Recommendation

  • The CdP could make a proposal to Assembly to create a seat on Council for the CdP.

C. Specific suggestions made by respondents which should be addressed by AIIC

Amongst the wealth of comments made by respondents to the survey, two suggestions seemed especially worthy of follow-up. The first, concerning interpreter-victims in war zones has already been forwarded to Council with a recommendation for action. The second, a general criticism of AIIC for being Eurocentric and expressing the need to move into other areas of interpretation beyond the traditional IOs and conference interpretation, should, we feel, be addressed by AIIC, perhaps at Assembly.

Recommendation

  • The CdP believes that AIIC should make a statement on behalf of interpreter-victims in war zones via a carefully worded statement in paid space in an international newspaper such as the International Herald Tribune. It does not believe that creating a fund within AIIC (as suggested by a respondent to the survey) could make a serious difference to the families affected - although it could do so in conjunction with another body or bodies (e.g. 'Reporters without borders'?)
  • AIIC should address the criticism of Eurocentricity, exploring ways to extend its influence on other continents.

Table of Conclusions and Recommendations

Conclusions

Recommendations

Addressed to:

1

AIIC must defend working conditions

-Staff to participate in defence/negotiations of working conditions in their Orgs.

CdP, staff members

-Perhaps establish a list of best practices in Orgs.

CdP

-Staff to participate in negotiation technique seminars

SCAS, CdP

-Comparative study of SI systems

Technet

2

Sponsorship system is a deterrent to staff

Possible recommendation

Assembly

3

Membership fee is too high

Possible Recommendation

Assembly

4

Information to schools and non-members

-Guidelines on introduction of AIIC in schools

TC, VEGA

-Film to introduce profession and AIIC

TC, CCOM, CdP

-More information to non-members

CdP

5

AIIC activities too geared to FL

-Organise networking/recruitment events

CdP, Regions

-Job vacancies on AIIC site

CdP

-Develop more regional activities interesting to staff

Regions

-Develop activities in Organisations

CdP

-"Staff members welcome" label on events

Organisers, Secretariat

-PriMs Non-work events network

PriMs, CCOM

-Glossaries on AIIC website

Members

6

Improve communication

-Organisation of post-survey information events in Orgs

CdP

-Relay information directly to staff (2 recs)

CdP

-Publish a calendar of events

Secretariat

-Simplify the website

CCOM

-CdP should communicate more

CdP

-Regions should communicate more

Regions

7

AIIC's image

-Reminder to members

Members

-Uphold Code of Ethics

Council

8

CdP to represent staff on governing bodies

-Possible Recommendation

Assembly

9

Staff suggestions

-Interpreter victims in war zones

Bureau, Council

-Eurocentricity debate

Assembly, Council


CdP November 2007

Recommended citation format:
Staff Interpreters. "The CdP worldwide survey of staff interpreters 2007: Why they do or do not join". aiic.net February 12, 2008. Accessed June 17, 2019. <http://aiic.net/p/2865>.



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