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UN - report of the ND on the outcome of the negotiations with the UN CEB

The Negotiating Delegation is in the process of reviewing the text of the preliminary draft Agreement. The full text of the new draft Agreement will be published on the Extranet as soon as it becomes

Subject to smooth completion of the discussions on the remaining issues, the new Agreement’s tentative entry-into-force date is 1 July 2012. 

The following points are intended to provide an overview of the most important changes to the current Agreement: 

Working conditions 

1. The weekly workload for interpreters remains unchanged (a maximum of 8 meetings during a 7-day working week), as does the workload for shorter contracts (5 meetings in 3 days and 7 meetings in 4 days).

N.B.  New:  A reference table spelling out the maximum number of assignments per days of contract is now annexed to the Agreement.

2. The daily workload also remains unchanged (maximum of two assignments of no more than 3 hours each).

3.  New:  There is one minor change in team strength: for meetings of no more than one hour and a half, two interpreters servicing a bilingual meeting from one booth will be paid 100% (instead of the 160% restricted-team rate).

4.  NewA section on firm offers/options indicating the rights and obligations both of organisations and of interpreters:

Whenever possible, Organisations will endeavour to make firm offers, without resorting to options; interpreters undertake not to withdraw from a contractual obligation unless a suitable alternative has been agreed upon.

The number of options given should equal the number of contracts to be issued; interpreters should not accept more than one option for the same period. The interpreter can request confirmation of an option at any time and expect a reaction within 24 hours; if the recruiting Organisation does not reply within 24 hours, the interpreter is automatically released from the option.

5. Cancellation deadlines and the concomitant compensation amounts for daily contracts remain unchanged. However, for monthly contracts, the cancellation deadlines are halved and their concomitant compensation amounts reduced, compared to the current Agreement.

6.  New:  If a meeting is cancelled because of force majeure, interpreters will be paid 50% of the remuneration due (N.B. in civil law, there is usually no compensation at all). The precise grounds for declaring a case of  force majeure are subject to mutual agreement between the Organisation and AIIC.

7.  The prohibition on the use of two-way booths for any official language other than Arabic and Chinese, as well as non-official languages (e.g. German, where relevant, Italian and Portuguese), has been made more explicit.

8.  New:  A session straddling two working days across midnight will count as one session towards the first day.

9New:  A night-time rest provision of a minimum of 12 hours for all assignments after 20.00 (this is especially important in connection with the straddling late-night sessions described in paragraph 8 above).  

Rates

N.B.  The 9% social security (pension) element is now mentioned more prominently and is taken into account in the method for calculating the rates. Payment of this pension contribution into a Caisse remains voluntary.

10. Montreal and Madrid have become HQ stations with their own rates. The North America rate has thus become the US rate alone.

11.  The “Destination principle” for rates – together with its corollary, the so-called “Elsewhere” rate - was rejected and a single World rate remains.

12.  New:  Calculation model for all HQ rates:

a base rate (the UN annual salary scale for P-4/Step VI, divided by 221)  +  the 9% social security element  +  the relevant post adjustment

The following indicative rates have been computed, using this new calculation model, for 1 January 2012 (in alphabetical order). These rates, rounded down to the nearest whole number, are tentative and thus remain to be confirmed; in any event, it will be the rates valid as of 1 July 2012 that will apply if the new Agreement enters into force on that date. The current rate (as of 1 January 2012) under the 2007-2011 Agreement follows in brackets for comparison.  

Austria EUR 451 (EUR 439)  
Canada  CAD 615 (North America rate)
France  EUR 461   (EUR 426.50)
Italy   EUR 450 (EUR 426)
Spain      EUR 430 (World rate) 
Switzerland   CHF 706 (CHF 685)
United Kingdom GBP 412   (GBP 285.70)
United States  USD 626 (USD 515 – North America rate)
World USD 612  (USD 558)

Non-regression for all rates applies to the initial calculation and to subsequent periodic adjustments.

N.B.  The P-4, Step VI salary scale is almost one and half steps higher than the mid-point proposed by the Organisations in their initial Proposal.

13.  New:  Periodic adjustment for all HQ rates: on January 1 each year, a new base rate is calculated, derived from the new annual salary scale and the average post-adjustment multipliers of the previous year. On July 1 of each year, these rates are adjusted according to the quarterly average post-adjustment multipliers (with guaranteed non-regression).

14.  New:    Calculation model for the World rate: the base rate (cf. paragraph 10 for HQ rates) plus 9% social security plus the average of 13 post-adjustment multipliers, namely the 8 HQ duty stations, Kenya (UNON HQ), and Ethiopia, Chile, Lebanon and Thailand (the HQ countries of the UN’s four regional economic commissions for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, West Asia, and Asia and the Pacific). This yields an increase of around 9.5% compared to the World rate under the current Agreement.

15.  New:   Periodic adjustment of the World rate:  the World rate is adjusted on January 1 of each year and is derived from the new base rate (cf. HQ rates adjustment), the 9% social security element and the annual averages of the 13 HQ post-adjustment multipliers for the previous year (with guaranteed non-regression).

All HQ rates are set in US dollars and converted into local currencies, using the UN Operational Rate of Exchange (UNORE); the World rate remains in US dollars.

N.B.  The new adjustment mechanisms for HQ and World rates work in colleagues favour because of the way that the post-adjustment system functions: on January 1 of each year, a percentage of the post-adjustment multipliers is incorporated into the annual base salary (known as consolidation); post-adjustment multipliers are therefore reduced on January 1 but the figures used to determine the new Agreement rates are the average values of the previous year, which are slightly higher. This will lead to a continuous, albeit more gradual, increase in rates and one that is closer to actual cost-of-living increases than the current system, which provides for rate adjustments only when the relevant cost-of-living (COL) indices increase by 3% and does not preclude a reduction in rates when the cost of living decreases.

Remuneration on the sixth and seventh day of the working week

This was a highly contentious issue that became a potential deal-breaker. The problem stems from the constraints of the UN’s model for calculating remuneration: daily remuneration is calculated by dividing an annual salary by 221. This “divider” is based on the following formula: 365 minus 30 (statutory annual leave) minus 10 (all official UN holidays) minus 104 (all weekends).

The following solution was accepted by the ND, with great reluctance, in order to avoid a breakdown in the negotiations.

16. Weekends for all work away from professional domicile continue to be paid as at present, as interpreters are considered to be on-call at all times during such missions.

17. Weekend days at professional domicile: For meetings lasting for more than one week, Organisations must indicate to interpreters, when they offer them a contract, whether their services will be required on the sixth and/or seventh day(s) of the working week(s) in question and must remunerate them accordingly, irrespective of whether those interpreters are actually assigned.

If an Organisation recruits interpreters for two consecutive weeks of meetings, with the first one ending on a Friday and the second one starting on the following Monday, interpreters will not normally be paid for the two weekend days.

18. Payment of so-called unworked days outside weekends continues unchanged (e.g. holidays, days when not assigned, days when meetings are cancelled for reasons of extreme weather, etc.).

N.B.   A precise account of events in this connection is appended to this report as a Supplement.

Travel

In general, Organisations’ travel rules for short-term staff apply.

19.  New: Full travel days (including the first day of travel) will be remunerated at 100% (in the current Agreement, it is at 50%); remuneration is unchanged for short-haul travel.

20.  Rest periods for travel time up to 10 hours remain unchanged.

21.  New: 48-hour rest periods for travel time above 10 hours are discontinued (since they are incompatible with UN and other Organisations’ travel rules for short term and permanent staff).

22.  NewFailure by the interpreter to comply with the requirement to secure travel authorisation will lead to withdrawal of the work offer, but Organisations must inform interpreters of all requirements at the time a firm offer of work is made. The UN CEB pledged to replace the requirement for a separate 3- or 6-monthly medical certificate for each Organisation with a single annual certificate, valid for all Organisations.

23.  New:  Travel arrangements have to be communicated to the interpreter in writing (e.g. by e-mail) at the time when a firm offer of work is made (enabling him/her to reject the offer if the arrangements are unacceptable).

N.B.  Earlier proposals to restrict the entitlement to travel in business class to flights of at least 13 hours has been withdrawn for staff and freelance interpreters alike.

Non-discrimination

24.  freelance recruitment is now free of all forms of discrimination (subject to the Staff Rules of the Organisation concerned) and not just confined to grounds of race, religion and gender.

25.  Protection of Negotiating Delegation and Professional Delegation members from being penalised for exercising their representative functions has been upgraded to a fully-fledged provision in the Agreement.

Outstanding Annexes

AIIC’s proposed Annex on Webcast Meetings and its proposal to include the System of Compensation for Excess Workload in a further Annex could not be discussed during the negotiations owing to a shortage of time. A joint Working Party, to be convened at the earliest convenience of both parties, will deal with these issues. The conclusions reached will subsequently be submitted for consideration to all the parties to the negotiations.

Supplement to the Negotiating Delegation Report on statements made in connection with the question of weekend remuneration

Eliane MASRY (verbatim text of her reservation lodged at the close of the negotiations):

“I am making this statement with all due respect to all my ND colleagues. They have all been excellent, exerting tireless efforts before, during and after the negotiations. I respect my colleagues and appreciate the work they have done, in particular our spokesperson Malick.

Today, when we came after the last recess in order to consult within the ND on the weekend payment, Malick said, and I quote: “Dans le souci de parvenir à un accord, nous pouvons accepter cette dernière proposition”.

I am entrusted with the livelihoods of colleagues who elected me on this ND. I cannot accept the paragraph submitted to us by the Organisations on the weekend payment for the following reasons:

  1. I cannot accept that any discrimination in payment be made between locals and non-locals;
  2. This is a blow to one of AIIC’s pillars, we are making a rule out of it, in writing and in a binding agreement;
  3. I consider it, and excuse my frankness here but people who know me know how frank I am, this is a “dishonest act” towards colleagues who have been loyal to Organisations, establishing themselves on markets in spite of the insecurity of available work, sustaining with difficulty their livelihoods in order to service meetings as locals while Organisations can make savings.

AIIC is a democratic association, let the members decide if they accept such discrimination.”

Nyssa Fiona GREGORY (having requested the floor mid-way through Eliane Masrys statement*):

“My statement will be much shorter: I associate myself with this statement”.

(* see Explanatory Note below)

Malick SY (in response to the queries of two members of the UN CEB Delegation regarding the implications of these two statements - this text is a translation from the original French; as this was not a written statement, minor inaccuracies are not to be excluded):

“I regret to say that the other members of our delegation and I had no prior knowledge of these statements. Therefore I deeply regret that two of our members chose to break ranks with the delegation. When a negotiating delegation is elected, its members no longer represent the local sector who may have nominated them, but the entire UN sector. The UN World Sectoral Meeting would have been the right forum for their statements.  As far as I am concerned, and in my capacity as spokessman of our delegation, these statements are null and void and do not commit our delegation. I wish to assure you that we will defend the Agreement we have negotiated.”

*  Explanatory Note

Nyssa Fiona GREGORY states that she had proposed two separate votes during the recess referred to above: the first on the weekend remuneration provisions tabled by the Organisations (she would have voted against, on the grounds that the text was both objectionable and unintelligible) and a second, if a majority had voted against these provisions, on whether such a negative vote should block the passage of the Agreement or simply be recorded as a reservation (she would have voted to allow the passage of the Agreement to proceed, with a reservation). This request for two separate votes was denied by the AIIC Negotiating Delegation’s spokesperson and a single decision was demanded, and she allowed passage of the Agreement to proceed.

She also had no prior warning of Eliane Masry’s formal reservation, but, on hearing the arguments adduced in it, she requested the floor and made her above statement.

After the AIIC Negotiating Delegation’s spokesperson had made his statement in response to the queries of the two members of the UN CEB Delegation, she requested to speak a second time in order to clarify her position to the Organisations herself by stating that her endorsement of the reservation did not betoken opposition to the Agreement, for which she would vote in favour at the forthcoming World Sectoral Meeting. However, the spokesperson refused her request to make this explanatory statement.


Recommended citation format:
United Nations Negotiating Delegation. "UN - report of the ND on the outcome of the negotiations with the UN CEB". aiic.net January 14, 2012. Accessed October 19, 2018. <http://aiic.net/p/3806>.



Message board

Comments 34

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Muriel AKRAS

   

Est-il encore possible de proposer un compromis pour que les week-ends soient payés à 50% comme les jours d'approche des voyages courts?

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Nyssa Fiona GREGORY

   

Dominique,

This was indeed the commentary to which I alluded in my first post and many thanks for tracking it down. I repeat that this is essential reading for any young (or older) interpreter and, above all, for all the administrators we have to deal with in the various Organisations.

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Dominique LEVEILLÉ

   

L'ONU et la charge de travail : une question d'équité et de non-discrimination

[Ce texte, dû à Anne Chaves-Rivier, est paru dans le Bulletin de l'AIIC de juin 2000 (vol. XXVIII, n° 2, p. 20-21).]


Historique

Le chapitre sur les conditions de travail de l'accord CCAQ représente une grande concession de la part de l'AIIC. Dès 1974, l'AIIC a accepté de retirer de la négociation son propre tableau d'effectifs en faveur des conditions applicables aux interprètes permanents. Ce faisant, elle accédé à une demande expresse de l'ONU.

Ces conditions avaient été définies en 1974 par le JAC (Joint Advisory Committee) à la suite d'une action qui avait été menée à New York pour protester contre le fait que le Département des conférences semblait vouloir modifier arbitrairement les conditions de travail des interprètes permanents qui étaient en vigueur depuis 1959 (8-9 séances par semaine au lieu de 7-8 séances).

Les dispositions de l'accord CCAQ sont donc calquées sur les recommandations du JAC telles qu'elles avaient été entérinées en 1974, à la différence près que l'interprète free-lance travaille 8 séances par semaine, et non 7, comme son collègue permanent, et que cette différence représente une concession supplémentaire de la [passage manquant dans l'original]. Il n'appartient donc pas à l'AIIC de la modifier. Il existe pour cela des procédures qui doivent être respectées.

La seule question qui se pose est celle de savoir si la norme hebdomadaire de 8 séances est toujours justifiée ou si l'AIIC ne devrait pas demander que la même norme soit appliquée aux interprètes permanents et free-lance.

Le cas des institutions spécialisées

De façon générale, les institutions spécialisées ont un nombre limité d'interprètes permanents et dépendent des free-lance pour tenir leurs réunions. Or, pour devenir institution spécialisée, une organisation doit prendre un certain nombre d'engagements vis-à-vis des Nations Unies. Ces engagements sont consignés dans un accord formel qui est signé par le Secrétaire général des Nations Unies et le Chef du secrétariat de l'organisation visée. Ils concernent notamment le personnel. Ainsi, l'organisation doit convenir «de mettre au point, dans la mesure du possible, des normes communes concernant le personnel, des méthodes et des arrangements destinés à éviter des différences injustifiées dans les termes et conditions d'emploi, à éviter une concurrence dans le recrutement du personnel...»

En raison de cet accord, les institutions spécialisées n'ont eu d'autre choix que de reconnaître la «norme commune» de 1974 en matière de charge de travail. Il est à noter cependant qu'elles appliquent la norme de 8 séances à leurs interprètes permanents.

Équité et non-discrimination

Pour des raisons d'équité et de non-discrimination, il est impensable que l'ONU applique une charge de travail différente aux interprètes, selon la durée de leur contrat. Que l'interprète ait un contrat de durée indéterminée ou de courte durée, les conditions d'exercice de la profession restent les mêmes(1). Pour quiconque connaît la profession, c'est une question de simple bon sens. À l'ONU, cette règle s'applique du reste à d'autres catégories professionnelles. Ainsi, par exemple, les traducteurs sont astreints aux mêmes normes de productivité qu'ils aient un contrat de courte durée ou un contrat permanent.

Le temps de préparation

Les administrations ignorent tout de la nature et de conditions d'exercice de la profession d'interprète de conférence. Pour elles, notre charge de travail se ramène uniquement au temps de cabine. Le moment est venu de leur rappeler qu'à côté du temps de cabine (qui se décompose en temps de parole et en temps d'écoute), la charge de travail des interprètes comporte un temps de préparation qui est essentiel à la qualité et qui s'ajoute au nombre d'heures passées en cabine.

Selon des travaux de recherche, le temps de préparation est d'environ 2 à 3 heures par journée de travail (2). Dans le système commun des Nations Unies, il est certainement plus important pour le free-lance qui change constamment d'organisation, de sujet, d'orateur, que pour le permanent qui suit année après année les mêmes réunions.

Il serait donc logique que le free-lance ait une charge de travail globalement inférieure à celle du permanent, puisqu'il a un temps de préparation supérieur.

Le temps de préparation est inversement proportionnel à la durée des contrats. Alors que la durée moyenne des contrats était de deux semaines en 1974, elle n'est plus que de 4 jours en 2000. Il saute aux yeux qu'en vingt-cinq ans, le temps de préparation du free-lance, donc sa charge de travail globale, a doublé, voire triplé. Il n'est pas rare qu'un interprète ait à préparer deux, voire trois réunions en deux semaines. Pour maintenir sa qualité, il doit constamment travailler en dehors des séances, le soir pour le lendemain, pendant les week-ends, avant ou après les séances.

Conclusion

Si l'on compare les doléances des interprètes de 1974 avec la situation d'aujourd'hui, on peut affirmer que rien n'est réglé, au contraire, les choses ont empiré : les installations ont vieilli, la lecture des textes s'est répandue partout, le dépassement de la durée des séances est devenu chronique, les services de conférence ont une planification désastreuse, etc. En plus, aujourd'hui, l'interprète free-lance est pénalisé par un fractionnement excessif des contrats et sa charge de travail globale a doublé, voire triplé. Il serait donc juste de lui appliquer exactement la même norme qu'aux interprètes permanents. C'est une simple question d'équité.



Notes
1. Ainsi, dans l'accord UE, les règles d'affectation et les règles régissant la composition des équipes sont celles applicables aux interprètes permanents. Ces règles sont du reste différentes selon qu'il s'agit de la Commission ou du Parlement.
2. Dans l'enseignement, on compte une heure de préparation pour une heure de cours. Ainsi, nul ne s'attend à voir les enseignants faire 40 heures de cours !

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Jonathan H. SANDERS

   

A few things:

I never claimed this was a report or a record of any meeting, nor did I intend it to be. All of the facts I referred to in my post were obvious by the time people were commenting on the report in this thread. Anyone has the right to disagree with my opinion. The list of facts contained in my comment can be verified by anyone interested in doing so. Any inaccuracies in the "facts" section can be commented upon with a view to correcting them. Any emotional reaction to actual facts, however, is not my responsibility.

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Rawdha CAMMOUN-CLAVERIA

   

Cher Iouri,

ton argumentaire me permet d'éviter d'écrire longuement parce que tu avances avec une grande clarté certains arguments auxquels je ne peux que sousrcrire.

Je souhaite y rajouter quatre points:

j'invite tous les collègues à pousser la logique du non paiement du we jusqu'au bout et à réfléchir à la brèche dans laquelle les organisations, à terme, pourraient s'engouffrer: la logique qui sous tend le non paiement du week-end, s'agissant des locaux, pourrait parfaitement s'appliquer aux non-locaux. En effet, ces mêmes organisations, à l'aune d'une prochaine crise (les crises étant cchroniques, soyez sûrs qu'il y en aura encore), pourront sans difficulté aucune arguer du fait que les interprètes en mission, étant "logés, nourris et blanchis" (per diem oblige), et ayant tout le loisir de faire du shopping et du tourisme simultanément, voire de rentrer chez eux (GVA-Paris ou GVA-Berne) ne méritent pas salaire. Après tout, nous avons déjà entendu l'argument selon lequel un local, pendant ses week-ends peut accepter du travail. Il en va de même pour le non-local qui pourrait à son tour, à Genève ou ailleurs, accepter d'autres contrats en fin de semaine. A mes yeux, ces deux arguments sont totalement théoriques, dans un cas comme dans l'autre. Mais c'est un des arguments brandis pour tailler dans cet acquis (excusez le gros mot, mais il est assumé). Par conséquent, je ne vois rien qui puisse, à terme, empêcher les organisations de proposer cette coupe supplémentaire.Pensez-y, ce n'est pas si absurde: c'est une logique qui suit son bonhomme de chemin, qui est plausible et qui n'est certainement pas à exclure.

Par ailleurs, je trouve qu'avoir obtenu des augmentations si substantielles pour NY et Londres est remarquable et l'on ne peut que s'en réjouir. C'est donc bel et bien la preuve que cette crise, qui a bon dos, n'a précisément pas empêché nos employeurs de nous accorder ces deux augmentations.

En outre, j'entends parfaitement l'appel des collègues à la solidarité avec les autres régions. J'aimerais rappeler à ces mêmes collègues qu'il est fondamental, si l'on a une vision à long terme, d'utiliser notre force de levier pour tirer les régions vers le haut et non pas vers le bas.

J'invite enfin tous mes collègues susceptibles de se retrouver en cabine bidirectionnelle à réfléchir à cette proposition des organisations qui consisterait, lors des réunions bilingues (et pourquoi pas multilingues?) à nous mettre à deux, moyennant 100% du salaire (et non plus 160%) si la réunion "ne dure que" 1h et demi. Ce serait, pour moi, une concession inaceptable contre laquelle aucune contrepartie n'a été obtenue, sachant pertinnemment que les réunions se prologent, qu'une heure et demi se transforme, à l'insu de tout le monde et sans crier gare, en deux heures et que les interprètes, bien que dans une situation délicate, n'éteindront jamais leur micro dans un souci de professionnalisme. C'est tout bonnement un cadeau qu'on ferait à nos employeurs, alors même que les réunions sont de plus en plus techniques, tendent à être "paperless" et que tout le monde s'accorde à dire que les conférences sont de plus en plus dures. Je vous pose la question: pourquoi accepterions-nous une telle concession? En contrepartie de quoi? Pourquoi un tel cadeau?

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Rawdha CAMMOUN-CLAVERIA

   

Cher collègue,

cette fois-ci je ne peux m'empêcher de réagir à chaud à tes commentaires. Sauf erreur de ma part, tu ne t'es pas présenté pour être le rapporteur de cette réunion. Tu aurais peut-être dû le faire, car tu aurais été invité à ne pas te baser sur une mémoire pour le moins sélective, à tendre vers plus d'objectivité et à être moins acrimonieux. Il n'y a pas lieu de l'être car la réunion s'est déroulée dans le respect de toutes les opinions. Tâche de ne pas sombrer dans une amertume qui risquerait d'entâcher un débat d'idée digne de ce nom. Ce serait dommage, à ton âge.

Peut-être devrais-tu te présenter comme candidat pour la DN. C'est tout de même plus efficace que d'endosser le rôle - à l'insu même de la DN- de son porte-parole.

Soyons construtifs, cela vaut mieux pour tout le monde.

Bien à toi.

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Jonathan H. SANDERS

   

FACTS:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “negotiate”(verb) as “b : to arrange for or bring about through conference, discussion, and compromise ”.

The ND was given a mandate (http://extranet.aiic.net/viewpage.cfm/page3533) (later amended: http://extranet.aiic.net/viewpage.cfm/page3699) by the Sector to negotiate with the UN CEB and expressed its “full confidence in the Negotiating Delegation”.

The ND executed this mandate almost in its entirety (at least 5/6, 83%), albeit with some compromise (i.e. part of the definition of “negotiate”).

Despite on-going informal talk among colleagues about weekends for years, and a direct and ultimately unanswered question from an ND member about any possible reason to justify the payment of local weekends to the UN CEB, the Sector chose not to exclude eliminating weekends as a potential compromise from the mandate.

Nevertheless, the ND states it had no intention of compromising on the point of weekends, and did its best to defend it entirely, but that it was impossible.

The Sector is shocked that the ND did what it was mandated to do and did not do what it was not mandated to do, and wants the ND to renegotiate the agreement.

The ND expresses the opinion that it would be impossible to renegotiate on the terms the Sector is suggesting and not end up with a much worse outcome, perhaps even the unraveling of the UN Sector itself. The ND bases this opinion on its direct experience in the negotiating room, as well as the independently-verifiable institutional and wider economic context.

The Sector, despite its “full confidence”, dismisses the opinion of the ND. Notwithstanding its absence from the negotiating room and the aforementioned independently-verifiable contexts, the Sector is confident that the UN CEB is bluffing.

The Sector suddenly voices many ideas about how the ND could have done what it was not mandated to do, and does not believe the ND when the ND says what it tried to do anyway, but did not work. In spite of the ND, the Sector is now confident that it can secure a new negotiation with UN CEB in the near future and that said negotiation will be more successful than the previous ones were.

The Sector is now clamoring to reject what the ND did. Namely, what the Sector asked it to do, on the basis that it did not do what it was not asked to do better.

OPINION:

It's not so easy to work for us.

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Iouri OSTROVSKI

   

I am very sorry Marie-Josée, having hastily taking your family name and not your surname in my previous message. Sincere regrets and apologies. Hopefully knowing me you understand that this was done "dans le feu de l'action" only. Nevertheless I am ashamed... :-(

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Iouri OSTROVSKI

   

Hi Dana,

I can't but agree with you that all of us are local and non-local in some points at time. I tend to agree with Nyssa as well that the discrimination introduced by this agreement would be rather at the expenses of the non-locals than locals the latters remaining ALWAYS cheaper and even more so without paid week-ends. So the discussion shouldn't really be concentrated on this - regretful - feature of agreement but rather on if we, locals somewhere as we are, are ready to forgo the paid week-ends without getting nothing, or much too little in return.

As far as the last part of your message I don't think that in case the agreement is rejected we should ask the ND to go to negociate to get "everything we have plus paid week-ends" but rather to go and negocaite a better deal for abandoning the WE if they are so adamant about it. However I think one shouldn't speculate about colleague's willingness to bow to dictate: it is pure speculative, unsubstantiated and most disgraceful.

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Marie-Josée DANA

   

I fully subscribe to Nyssa's post.
The lost local week-ends are a very bad thing. However, on the subject of discrimination between locals and non locals, I would say that it is not the same to work in domicile, spending your week-ends in the comfort of your own home with family and friends (possibly accepting work on the private market) and being in a hotel room somewhere, not being able to tend your garden (without that possibility of working on the week-end)
It also seems to me that we are all at times local and at times non locals, which should equalize the situation. Let us not forget that there are provisions for paying some week-ends to non locals...We can also chose where to be local and therefore where to be non local. It is not a condition you are born with!
I think it would be very important for the Assembly to find out before it votes yes or no, whether the present ND is ready to go back in case of a no, or at least try to go back to renegotiate...Would we be sending a totally new ND?

I would also like to point out that not everybody who works under the Agreement is as motivated as we are. Quite a few I know think that anything is better than nothing. Some never know what is going on, have never heard of reservations...etc. So, my fear is that should we reject the Agreement, if the Organizations decide to dictate, instead of renegotiate, they may find enough people to dictate to.
One cannot exclude that, supposing in a best case scenario they renegotiate, give us everything we have plus paid week-ends for all, the organizations that have been hitherto paying week-ends might start introducing the 4 day week.
And apparently we have nothing against the 4 day week. We did not take action when this highly dishonest practice started in Geneva under R. Galer, and then spread. New York was spared for quite some time, but suddenly, under M. Corvington, they also got the 4 day week. We have accepted that. I was on the ND when that terrible thing started and asked my colleagues on the ND to go for a correspondingly higher daily rate whenever there was no week-end in a contract, but nobody else on the ND wanted to hear about it.

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Nyssa Fiona GREGORY

   

With all due respect, Nassab, rather than just lash out gratuitously, could you please substantiate that claim? I have argued, in detail and at inordinate length, precisely how my opinion on paid weekends has not changed. Perhaps you did not correctly understand what I wrote. I also carefully explained why, notwithstanding this (stoically unchanged) position, I feel it would be better to vote for this draft Agreement, warts and all, rather than run the risk of voting the UN Agreement Sector out of existence. You may disagree, which is your right; you may deem that position defeatist; you may go ahead and vote no....and see whether it is really true that "no Agreement is better than a bad Agreement". But please do not make outlandish claims with absolutely no basis in fact.

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Paul BELOPOLSKY

   

I will not be shamed into reversing my view that the paid weekend arrangement under the current Agreement is very difficult to defend from an economic and generally from a logical point of view. I say this not because I embrace the Organizations’ arguments but because as I said in my previous post, to be negotiating to preserve something that isn’t based on an obvious rationale you need to have strong arguments to present to the other side. Statements such as ‘we need paid weekends to prepare for the following week’s conference’ may sound perfectly justified to us and may in some cases have some truth to them. Unfortunately, they don’t sound nearly as convincing to the other side. As I have pointed out before, it isn’t even so much the problem of paid weekends as it is the unsustainable way that the workload is distributed over a seven-day period.

As for Nyssa’s suggestion that the wish of some colleagues (I plead guilty) to have a proper debate on the issue of paid weekends in the run up to the negotiations let the Organizations know that paid weekends ‘were, in one way or another, expendable’, I take strong issue with her whole approach here and precisely with her tireless attempts as she herself admits in her post, ‘to nip this entire debate in the bud’. It is precisely because of this attitude that no proper debate was ever held, even though it needed to be, very much so. Without a doubt this is the main reason why the membership now finds itself so bewildered and unable to understand why something that was supposedly so sacrosanct that it could not even be the subject of a public debate is now being jettisoned so unceremoniously. Had a proper debate been held, the ND might have been better prepared to deal with the UN’s insistence on foregoing paid weekends. They might have put forward a convincing counter-offer, including considerably higher rates.

All that being said, rejecting this Agreement would not be the same as what happened last time around. Remember that back then we first ACCEPTED the Agreement only to REJECT it afterwards, once it became clear how bad a deal we were really getting. We made ourselves look foolish all right but no one could doubt the degree of our outrage, especially after the overwhelming vote against that aborted text. We could never hope to achieve as clear-cut a mandate this time around. This will mean a weakened AIIC in any future dealings with the UN. As I see it, and here I agree with Nyssa, the only way forward this time is to accept this draft Agreement while working hard to have it revised some time down the road. Perhaps this could be done in the form of a collective AIIC-wide reservation lodged about the paid weekend issue on the basis that it introduces discrimination (though I personally am not totally convinced by this argument). It’s something we could discuss at the World Sectoral. But to simply reject this draft Agreement, ‘par les temps qui courent’, would be most unwise I think.

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Iouri OSTROVSKI

   

I will not argue about the substantial points of your message Nyssa many of which I do share. However one remark come to my mind after having read your post: I remember perfectly clear Hélène Ciolkovitch, the ND coordinator in first 2005 negociations, coming to Paris in Unesco building and presenting to the Paris-based colleagues the draft agreement saying that if we were not to vote for it there would have been no chance UN agree to reopen the negociations and we would remain without agreement at all. And I remember perfectly clear as well that it was no one else but you who rightfully and fiercefully opposed to such a vision. Indeed as many of us know this draft was rejected by membership largely thanks to your advocacy and persuasion.

I hear all your arguments about the difference between then and now but can't help to find the ressemblance of two situation astonishly striking having you now in then Hélène's position.

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Nassab ABDELKHALEK RYAN

   

No agreement is better than a bad agreement. If we ever want to reverse bad provisions, the time is now not in 5 years. I find it very hard to follow your guidance as you have changed your mind so often.
Dominique Leveillé makes two important points: organisations absolutely need an agreement so we should not underestimate our strength; and now the time is not for defeatism. We should not let fear influence our votes, but should rather be guided by our conscience as AIIC members.

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Nyssa Fiona GREGORY

   

Some personal insights from an ND member

There is scant tradition on the Extranet for ND members to speak out in this forum during their term of office and it has only been done very sparingly. Since rather a lot has now been said or surmised about my own individual position on the draft Agreement to be considered at the 17 March World Sectoral and given the huge implications of the vote that will be held there, I believe the time has come, a day before the Paris and Geneva sub-sectorals, to break my unwonted and unwanted silence in order to provide some personal insights that I hope will be useful to the membership as they deliberate on what was negotiated as well as correct a number of understandable misconceptions. It is crucial, I believe, that colleagues make an informed decision, based on accurate information and not conjecture or assumption. I will endeavour to be as brief as possible but there is quite a bit of ground to cover and I cannot hope to be exhaustive in this one posting. In order to facilitate colleagues' reading of my views, I will try to express them under discrete headings. I preface all these remarks with a caveat, however. These are my personal opinions. While the rest of the ND has known for some time that I am about to express them, what I say "n'engage que moi", as they say in French, and I am not speaking for, or on behalf of, the ND as a whole.

Some simple corrections of misconceptions

I am not the ND member for France. I was elected on a non-regional "ticket". With what now seems like commendable foresight, given the weekend issue's fate, I politely declined an invitation from my French colleagues to stand only for France precisely because what has rightly been called my "visceral opposition" to the loss of paid weekends stood at variance with the position of a very large number, probably a majority, of my Paris colleagues on that issue. But more of that later...

As will doubtless be explained in greater detail on March 17, the arguments over the calculation methodology that have been adduced on this page or expressed to me privately, including by at least two previous ND coordinators, are somewhat wide of the mark, even if the logic underpinning those arguments is essentially sound. For example, it has been pointed out to me that the 9% social security element should have been applied to the end figure, and not just to the base rate derived from this methodology, in order to secure a higher rate. For the sake of argument, I have done the calculations for the only two scenarios that are valid in this comparison: the existing methodology applied to P-4, step 6, on the one hand, versus a methodology, on the other, that places the SS element at the end of the equation (rather than somewhere in the middle) applied to the "midpoint" proposed prior to the December negotiations - the midpoint, that is, between the bottom of the P-3 scale and the top of the P-4 scale (which happens to be towards the lower end of a P-4, step 4 because the two scales overlap). I limit the comparison to only these two calculations because any other "comparator" will fail to take account of the context and dynamic of the negotiating process in December.

The ND had argued powerfully that the rates on offer were too low, almost across the board. We could have argued about the position of the social security element in the calculation and pushed the rates up a bit or we could have argued for a higher SS percentage (the 14% in our original proposal). In the circumstances, the solution proposed by the UN produced a better rate than in either of those other two options: they upped their salary rate almost two whole steps (N.B. at the net dependency rate, as has always been the case in AIIC's negotiations with them). Thus, the salary that ensues from the now-agreed methodology for, let's say, the USA (the simplest example to use because it is in dollars and does not require any use of exchange rates) is actually $2 higher than would have ensued from a calculation that used the "midpoint rate" with the 9% SS added at the end.

In other words, arguing over the minutiae of the precise methodology is a rather futile discussion. Those who have been closely involved in previous negotiations know very well that the Organisations come to the table with a budget in their heads before they concoct a methodology to satisfy it. In this instance, we had no choice but to go over to their system. Why? Because the various supervisory and decision-making bodies in the UN were demanding that all short-term salary structures be based on an objective and coherent system derived from the methodologies of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC). The argument was over how we could best finesse that structure in order to extract the best possible deal for all free-lance interpreters in the System. Retention of the "hybrid" system that had served us more or less well since the first UN-AIIC Agreement in 1968 was simply no longer an option, therefore.

This brings me on to the very valid points that have been made - including by myself here several months ago, incidentally - about the fatuity of the 221-day figure for the divider. In actual fact, the most devastating critique and deconstruction of this 221-day divider, indeed of its very principle, that I have yet to hear has not come on this forum but in the negotiating room on the afternoon of 12 December, when Malick Sy dismantled the whole logic of this methodology in a searing, magisterial assault on it. It left the Organisations reeling; it also prompted them, over the ensuing dinner break, to go up to step 6 on the P-4 scale. The fact that hardly anyone gets near to 221 days a year is not in dispute. But the methodology needed a dividing number to break down the annual P-4, step 6 salary into an acceptable unit salary for each day of contract....which is, of course, where the weekend debate kicks in.

The "mechanics" of the weekend issue

During the fateful hours on the last afternoon and evening of the negotiations, we faced a very stark choice. Lose the entire draft Agreement over the last stumbling-block or salvage it by reaching some sort of understanding on weekends. The point has been made that permanent interpreters are paid their weekends. It is a specious argument, with all due respect to those that have made it. Permanent interpreters, unlike freelancers, are not paid by the day. They are paid an annual salary. Except when they are on home leave, they are theoretically at the beck and call of the Organisation all year round - it is written in their contracts and, in the case of the NY permanents especially, such emergencies can strike at any time and the booths have to be staffed come what may. The alternative to the 221-day divider on that last day - and it was explained to me very simply by an impartial source in the wings at the time - was to restore all weekends to the divider if we were to continue to be paid as locals over any such weekend. In other words, the 104 weekend days in the year would have had to be added to the 221-day divider. In order to get anywhere near the base rate that we are paid, either under the new draft Agreement or its rough equivalent under the current one, the point in the salary scale that would have to be applied to this new 325-day divider would have to be around D1, step 9 (the top of the D-1 scale, in the "Director" category of staff), in other words the equivalent of an almost-retired Chief Interpreter in NY or Geneva, the only two interpretation posts in the D scale - a totally unrealistic premise upon which to negotiate.

In short, restoring weekends to the divider was not an option, nor was arguing for a completely different system - both the UN and the Specialised Agencies (unlike last time) stated very clearly that they would not countenance continuation of a non-ICSC-based rates structure because of the dictates of their governing bodies. All we could hope to do was persuade the Organisations to relent on their hard-and-fast refusal to pay weekends. Given that one exception had already been granted (for weekend days actually worked), a further exception was then added for non-local interpreters, since they are invariably too far from their homes to go back for the weekend and are theoretically - and often practically - on call for the employing Organisation. They also cannot accept work over any such weekend elsewhere because they would either have to travel to another place and then come back or, if the alternative employment were in the same city, be in violation of the Agreement in accepting such work, owing to the rules applicable to travel and subsistence. A further exception was then extracted from the Organisations: local weekends could still be paid if the Chief Interpreter or recruiter deemed it advisable to hire for those days even if there were no certainty at all that there would actually be any meetings on them. But that was as far as they were prepared to go, arguing that if they added a further exception for all other local weekends, there would be no rule left at all - or rather, the exceptions would have become universal and thus the new rule (a prospect that, we were told, would see them "laughed out of court" in the administrative organs of the UN system, first and foremost in the General Assembly's Fifth Committee).

The real problem with the weekend issue

Once the ND had decided not to entertain my two-vote proposal (see the ND's Extranet report) on the last evening of the negotiations - a proposal that might have allowed for a collective reservation to be entered along the lines of what Hélène has said should have been done, bringing the definitive decision back to the World Sectoral - the ND, myself included, had no option but to agree to the solution outlined above if the entire negotiating process were not to collapse, with everything previously secured going down with it. Some claim that the organisations were bluffing; I doubt they were. We cannot know for sure. But the point about the weekends is this: if the Organisations were able to turn this issue into a "deal-breaker", we as a collective body of professionals only have ourselves to blame - because large numbers of freelancers, especially in Paris and Geneva, had been signalling a willingness to forgo their weekends months in advance of the negotiations (in some cases, years - often by illegally forgoing payment for weekends at the behest of employing Organisations). Some of these colleagues argue that this should be done in order to restore 5-day contracts; others that it should be in return for much higher remuneration for each individual day. There has been a further school of thought in the profession according to which weekends should be retained on the basis of extra remuneration and extra sessions i.e. conceding changes in workload in return for higher pay. Then there is another school that had advocated moving over to a "jour chomé" system, such as they have in the EU Agreement. And then there have been the "visceral hard-liners" like myself who, faced with this smorgasbord of conflicting menus, have sought to nip this entire debate in the bud because it could only achieve one thing: signal to the other side that weekends were, in one way or another, expendable without our having any realistic hope whatsoever of reaching a consensus position on how they might conceivably be dealt with. The Organisations have known for some time therefore, especially in Geneva, that they were pushing at an open door on weekends.

Even now, elaborate arguments are being made on this forum in support of the argument that local weekend payment is in some way illogical or unjustifiable. But just because something appears illogical and counter-productive in Geneva or Paris, it does not mean that is equally - or even remotely as - unjustifiable or counter-productive in other cities, such as Montreal or Vienna, where weekends have been routinely paid because of a relatively small pool of local interpreters and, in the case of Montreal, a relatively low number of meetings. Such weekend payment has remained an untouched "acquis" in those cities, but it is now to be thrown overboard because of the grievances of large numbers of colleagues in other cities - grievances that are far from unanimously held there, incidentally, judging by the furious reaction now emerging in Geneva, especially among the regulars at the ILO.

My position on such "acquis" (a horrible little word that has no place in the English language - the European Commission's efforts notwithstanding - but one that reflects important rights) is very simple: you do not propose to change the status quo unless you have a consensus across the entire Sector to do so. Those who wanted an end to weekend payment in return for consecutive 5-day contracts have now got what they wanted...in theory. And they have driven the debate to this very outcome - several chief interpreters have told me: "Oh but it's not just us; your colleagues, too, are saying that the weekend rule is working against them". Fine as it goes...but... what it is to stop those same chief interpreters, faced with budgetary pressures, from continuing to "saucissonner" contracts into 4-day blocks + a separate 1-day (or 2-day) contract for another interpreter on the Friday (and Saturday)?

As for the argument that all that local interpreters get paid to do over a paid weekend is "sit at home", I have to wonder how much preparation such colleagues do for the following week's conference. We are not, as Hélène rightly pointed out, paid "à la tâche". Nor are we paid purely on the basis of the number of hours that that we sit in a booth or that a meeting lasts or that we actually open our mouths for. The whole battle against the "productivity" gurus in New York - and the ill-starred Olafsson "report" that never officially was - was waged precisely on these terms: we are not office staff, we are "essential service" staff whose workload is based on availability, not actual time on the job, and as much as half of our professional time is occupied by preparation for meetings. Most of that preparation, in my experience, is performed...at home...over the weekend. So should we now do it for free? Anne Chaves once wrote an outstanding defence of the logic of our work time, on this very forum, a few years back - I have been unable to find it, but if anyone has it, please re-post it because it is a must-read for all colleagues, especially the younger ones, and for all UN administrators.

Where do we go from here?

Given all that I have said above and previously on the weekend issue, I now come to Iouri's question: how can Nyssa express her opposition to the weekend provisions and yet still vote for the draft Agreement on March 17? Others have assumed I am in the throes of moral turmoil, wrestling with my conscience, but they are really missing the point. My position is actually very clear-cut. It is based on my many years' experience of the UN System: 10 years as a local in Geneva, the rest as one in Paris, with relatively frequent assignments in Vienna, Rome, New York and Montreal, not to mention on mission on almost every continent and sub-continent. I cannot claim to have a monopoly of wisdom or experience of the UN's organisations and their workings. And colleagues who know me will have their opinions as to the reliability of my judgement. Here, for what it is worth, is my opinion on the nub of the argument since, although there may be quibbles and arguments over other parts of what the ND has negotiated, the vote on 17 March will come down essentially to whether or not a majority of colleagues agree to the weekend provisions.

In my judgement, these provisions are, indeed, discriminatory. They are, above all, divisive. They segregate categories of interpreters, ostensibly (in the English sense of that word, not the French) into haves and have-nots. They are actually discriminatory in much more insidious ways in that, in fact, they discriminate against almost everybody. They appear to favour non-local interpreters but, as Paul has pointed out, they will more often than not work in favour of the local over the non-local wherever there is a choice to be made. Simply because, as long as there is a local alternative, that colleague will be substantially cheaper. It is simply budgeting and mathematics. In other words, claiming that these provisions favour non-local interpreters assumes, often wrongly, that the non-local interpreter will actually continue to be recruited in the first place. As such, it has become clear to me for some time now - as a woman who works much more non-locally than locally - that we are now witnessing the beginning of the end of non-local recruitment in the UN system. The examples (intensive training programmes in NY, hotel schemes that involve a reduction in available DSA in Rome, etc.) are now too numerous to mention. I therefore disagree with Hélène's prediction that these clauses will usher in a "withering on the vine" for local markets. I happen to believe the reverse is more likely to happen.

Faced with unacceptable parts of an Agreement, the Association faces a choice: grudgingly accept them, as we did with the deplorable North America rate under the current Agreement, and seek to revisit the issue either at the Mid-Term Review or at the next 5-yearly negotiation, or reject the Agreement text and take the risk of having no Agreement at all. Let me be crystal-clear here: if colleagues think they can partially reject the Agreement and request renegotiation of only part of it, they are deluding themselves. If asked to renegotiate, the Organisations will do one of two things: either refuse, in which case they will either seek to impose their own version of the Agreement unilaterally or leave the Sector bereft of any Agreement at all, or only agree to renegotiate if everything is renegotiated. I doubt very much, personally, that even the latter option would be likely. The UN said it very clearly: they can live without an Agreement; they would rather have one as it would give them some predictability, but if we could not reach a mutual agreement, they would impose their system anyway and "see how the chips fall". And this time, unlike in 2005, the Specialised Agencies have made it clear that their governing bodies will not countenance any separate deals from what prevails in the UN proper. So, a vote for the draft Agreement with a request for partial renegotiation is not a yes vote at all; it is rejection and request to renegotiate the entire Agreement.

So, suppose the WS votes no. Colleagues need to view these negotiations in context. The situation in 2012 bears no resemblance whatsoever to 2005. The economic crisis is real and unprecedented in the history of the UN system (even compared to the Reagan years when the US was withholding its budget contribution); zero nominal growth (ZNG) budgets or real cuts in UN budgets are the norm where previously the battles were between ZNG and zero real growth; the ND and the sector as a whole were facing an unprecedentedly vicious assault on their working conditions and livelihoods; the UN and the Specialised Agencies, in keeping with the "One UN" and "Delivering as One" slogans, are now joined at the hip. Colleagues also need to realise that all the nice bits of the Agreement that they don't want undone and all the status quo provisions that were defended were not a gift; each issue had to be fiercely argued and each defence robustly mounted. We were helped as well by a window of opportunity: the serendipitous happenstance by which the December negotiations took place just prior to the Fifth Committee's final meetings, at which the UN administration was under enormous pressure to deliver a result, event if it were at a price. Expecting those conditions and achievements to be replicated in a renegotiation is worse than wishful thinking. The more likely attitude from the other side would be one of retribution for being forced to go through the whole process again. These are not "scare tactics". And for what earthly reason would I engage in such tactics? Believe me, given how I have always felt about the weekend issue, I would be the first to volunteer to renegotiate these awful provisions if I thought I, we, AIIC stood a chance of succeeding. I don't think we stand a cat in hell's chance and I am duty-bound to say so. Trying to find anyone in the ND who thinks otherwise is unlikely to yield a very rich harvest.

Which leaves the crucial question of how the sector would react to a non-Agreement situation. Again I have to be crystal-clear. While AIIC has often prevailed in its collective actions against the UN, it has only been able to do so when it has been united. What prospect is there of successful industrial action on the weekend issue when so many colleagues have such different priorities and feelings about such weekends? Such a campaign is, therefore, doomed to fail. I say that with no satisfaction. The result will be a sector in which there is either no Agreement at all or one in which we lose far more than just our paid local weekends. Many regions of the world, especially in the "periphery" of the UN sector, are pinning their hopes for the survival of their markets on approval of the draft Agreement. This is the message that has come to me, loud and clear, from Asia and the Pacific, Africa and Latin America. It is thus with a heavy heart that I will vote yes and encourage colleagues to do likewise on 17 March. And let us hope that, at the next scheduled negotiation, we can reverse these provisions, just as we have finally remedied the running sore of the rate in North America this time.

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Iouri OSTROVSKI

   

Dear Jonathan,
I am afraid people might get bored if this thread becomes our bilateral exchange but can't resist replying to some of assertions you made.

First of all there IS some logic behind paid weekends, as I tried to explain in my previous posts and as Dominiuqe Leveillé patiently confirmed once again. But I don't want to discuss logic anymore: as I said previously it is not about being logical at all costs but about our livelihood. Suffice to say that I find utmost ILLOGICAL to give up something we received from our founding fathers and have always had for nothing in return.

You say that our working conditions didn’t change because they are based on objective, “logical” factors, and therefore administration grudgingly accepted it. Well, I will qualify this statement as a non-evidence-based deduction, hence rather like your own opinion which may or may not correspond to the reality. I happen to think that it is very far from reality (which is of course only my opinion). Paul explained, and I agree completely, about medical studies and workload. The people on the other side of the table don’t live in the vacuum. They know only too well that ANYONE of us will accept 5 days ten meetings assignment on private market or in coordinated organisations provided we are paid ACCORDINGLY. Therefore it is not like I am saying to you: Jonathan, I’ll give you million dollars if you run 100 meters in less than 10 seconds, which I guess no one of us will be able to do. 10 meetings in 5 days is NOT an undoable thing, and most of us will accept it as often as they can or wish, FOR MONEY. So long for objective criteria’s.

So tell me Iouri, why on Earth they DO accept the workload currently stipulated in agreement, you may rightfully ask? Well my answer will be: because of many factors nothing to have with logic: firstly, the workload for permanent interpreters in UN system (7!, not 8, meetings in 5 days) helps us a lot, secondly, they know it helps us to swallow rather low rates, but the most importantly of all - because they know perfectly well that we ARE NOT READY to give them up!!! This is the key: when interpreters stand firm and united they ALWAYS, I repeat, ALWAYS win against any attempt to diminish their working conditions (workload and remuneration). It happened in EU about 20 years ago with a taxation issue, it happened in OECD 10 years ago when it left the coordination mechanism and it happened 6 years ago with the aborted UN agreement refused by the membership and not ratified by the Council. Our firm stance is the ONLY reason our workload hasn’t changed yet.

So in reply to your direct question do I have an idea how to proceed I dare to say: yes, I do. The WS will be asked to approve the proposed agreement, the main argument will be that if we don’t we will have no agreement at all. This SCARE tactics worked in the past, and the ND certainly counts on it to win the vote this time. However for me the fear is the WORST counsel I may think about. Moreover we have some precedents: in 2005 we were told exactly that but after the proposed draft has been rejected world didn’t fall apart, contrary of the then ND’s assertions, negotiators returned to negotiate and produce a very satisfactory agreement which served us well last 5 years+. What prevents us to do the same this time?

However and in spite of all I said previously I personally, and I guess very surprisingly to you, would not try to keep paid week-ends at any cost. There are some arguments to abandon them (and our partners seem to be very keen of this idea) but NOT THE WAY it was done now. Paul said: “The only realistic way to have preserved paid weekends in a new Agreement would have been to offer the UN something in return.” I would say that the only realistic way to have us to give up paid weekends in a new Agreement should have been, and still should be, to get something in return!!! And as it is all about MONEY - we don’t touch working conditions, you remember?, and we are about to lose money – what we should get is the MONEY, meaning substantial increase in daily rates. Of course in order to satisfy opposite side this increase would not cover at 100% the loss we are about to have because of lost week-ends but should be much more substantial than the proposed one.

Lastly, even if it is perfectly right that the aborted 2005 agreement contained very good conditions for Geneva-based interpreters and very poor conditions to Europe-based ones, which didn’t bother a lot the formers, I don’t feel we should open barely closed wounds and revive this “guéguerre” between Geneva-based interpreters and all the others as it wouldn’t serve our purpose at the moment we need to stand united and not to fall divided.

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Dominique LEVEILLÉ

   

I fail to understand why, according to Paul Belopolsky, "The only realistic way to have preserved paid weekends in a new Agreement would have been to offer the UN something in return". (In fact, I find this to be an amazing statement.)

Regarding the number of weekends effectively paid, I am afraid I must contradict Jonathan Sanders. All the specialized agencies based in Geneva —ILO, ITU, WHO, WMO and WIPO— pay weekends when they have long conferences (like the four-week ITU World Radiocommunication Conference that just took place in Geneva, with something like five full teams of interpreters, not to mention the governing bodies of WHO, WIPO, etc.), so it is not a matter of the odd conference every two years as he implies; I would simply advise Jonathan to ask around. Of course, gathering precise data on the overall number of weekends paid annually in Geneva (or elsewhere) is extremely difficult, but I sincerely believe that it is correct to state, as I did in my previous post, that most Geneva-based interpreters working primarily for the UN sector stand to lose about 15 per cent of their global remuneration. At any rate [no pun intended], the impact of this draft agreement in Geneva — where over 50 per cent of the overall number of days in the sector are worked — would be very strong. And we should remember that the UN simply killed the free-lance market in NY when it started cutting contracts.

I would hate, however, to see this debate turned into a 'Geneva vs. the rest of the world' issue —although I know that Geneva-bashing has its adepts— because I really believe it is a matter of principle, as Hélène Ciolkovitch has very clearly explained in her message in this thread. Differentiating between locals and non-locals on this basis will introduce a new ground for discrimination and create a lot of problems in terms of workload. The fact that there are, indeed, other factors that already cause discrimination (like the beginner's rate)should not be an argument to add a new, major one. This is a core principle of AIIC.

It is not a matter of preserving the weekends at all costs, either. We all know that the average length of UN conferences keeps on shrinking. This is why many colleagues have been arguing for a long time that we might, or indeed should, give up paid weekends... in exchange for a strong increase in the daily remuneration rate. So the problem is rather that we are giving up weekends without counterpart. Or, as Paul Belopolsky himself eloquently put it in a previous post: "I am unhappy because there wasn’t a proper debate about it beforehand and we are not getting enough in return." I couldn't agree more. The Negotiating Delegation had no mandate to give up the weekends, and in my opinion it should have told the organizations that on such an important question, it had to go back and consult the membership before even considering the principle (and I hasten to add that I fully understand — having been there myself twelve years ago — the pressure under which our delegation was placed; no personal or collective criticism meant here).

A rough, back-of-the-envelope calculation for compensating the loss of weekends (which were always implicitly included in the basis for calculating our rates—this is one of the two essential reasons explaining why the rates in the UN system were lower from the very beginning, the other one being the tax exemption) would be to take a 'typical' two-week contract with the weekend (12 days) and divide the total remuneration by 10 (i.e. same number of meetings minus two days' pay). Taking the current rates as a basis, this would yield a daily rate of 512 euros for Paris (and 822 Swiss Francs for Geneva). This would make sense, or at least be a reasonable basis for discussion, but it is not what we are getting—and that is the problem.

There are other problems as well, like insurance coverage and the number of days young colleagues need to keep their annual work permit in Switzerland, which would become more difficult to attain. I do believe, however, that we should collectively concentrate on the principles that AIIC has always stood for. I consider that there are very positive elements in this draft agreement (the rates for North America and London, and also the principle of the calculation model based on the UN salary scale, although I object to some of the elements). However, we should try to make it even better, and we should not accept something that is unacceptable. Our task is not to find arguments to support the organizations' reasoning —of course they want to save money, but they are already saving a lot by shortening meetings or running meetings in English—, but to defend our livelihoods and our working conditions. I think there is absolutely no ground for defeatism. The organizations (in particular the specialized agencies) absolutely need an agreement, and we should not underestimate our strength.

Dominique Leveillé

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Paul BELOPOLSKY

   

P.S. Just so that my comments aren't misunderstood, my intention is not to minimize any potential loss of earning by colleagues used to paid weekends, especially as I get about 2 to 3 paid weekends a year myself in Paris. I simply question the notion that this would affect as many colleagues as Dominique claims and I can't help but weigh it against the potential benefits for the many colleagues who would now get proper 5 or even 6 day consecutive weeks.

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Paul BELOPOLSKY

   

Logic and pragmatism are two words I can definitely sign on to and I completely agree with Jonathan on many of his points.

The only realistic way to have preserved paid weekends in a new Agreement would have been to offer the UN something in return. The reason the current system of paid weekends is being ditched is simply because it was based on entirely flawed, unsustainable arithmetic. As I have commented tirelessly you cannot seriously defend the sustainability of a system under which an organization hires a free-lance interpreter for 4 days and gets 7 sessions out of that interpreter, but when forced to hire him/her for 7 days, gets only ONE more session out of the deal. You can argue about different people's logic but you cannot argue about the fact that such an arithmetic is absurd to put it mildly.

The only way to have seriously salvaged the possibility of fully paid weekends is to have offered the UN at the very least a 9th session in case an interpreter gets all 7 days of the week. But unfortunately, as in other examples, AIIC has painted itself into a corner with the old system, adamantly refusing to increase workload, even for a 6 or 7 day week. While there may have been a rationale for this in the good old days when the UN handed out 6 or 7 week contracts and workload tended to get evened out over the length of an entire contract, there no longer is, at least not in the many UN headquarters cities where shorter contracts have become the norm.

And by the way Jonathan, the supposedly objective medical standards on which the 8 session workload is based are very far from being unanimously accepted. The EU and the Coordinated Organizations require 10 sessions in 5 days, as do other organizations. It would be very hard to conduct a rock-solid medical study accepted by most people who employ us proving beyond any reasonable doubt that 8 sessions are the maximum that an interpreter can cope with. If you go down that road, then colleagues in the Chinese and Arabic booths would presumably be able to work at least an extra session since they work in a team of three. That is precisely why the ND has wisely chosen to back off the idea of another medical study. We'd be barking up the wrong tree.

And so instead of having had a healthy and useful debate about this subject, AIIC instead invoked the sacrosanct status of the paid weekend all the way up to the negotiations, until faced with negotiators from the UN who just couldn't see our logic about paying us for two days to sit home and do nothing for the simple reason that it was a notional way of compensating us for the historically low rates paid by the UN. I am no professional negotiator but it seems to me that you cannot negotiate for something unless you've got strong arguments to back it up. Those of AIIC to preserve paid weekends were about as weak as I can imagine.

All this being said, what we are getting from the new draft Agreement isn't really such a bad deal. There will still be the option, as Jonathan points out, of being paid for weekends, or at least for Saturdays. Colleagues brought in from out of town will also benefit from paid weekends, which is only fair to my mind. Dominique's argument about a 15% cut for Geneva based colleagues is simply dubious in my opinion. I again repeat what I said in my previous post. When in 2005 the UN almost got away with introducing a 335 Euro rate for European-based colleagues - an approximately 15% pay-cut compared to the then World Rate of 389 Euros - that did not seem to bother many colleagues based in Geneva, nor does the current gap in remuneration between a local and an imported colleague working in Geneva, due to the much higher Swiss rate and the strong Swiss Franc.

Each one of us has their own logic as Iouri suggests, and the point about endorsing this draft Agreement, which I thing we should do, is to see to what extent it either partially satisfies most of our different types of logic or at least doesn't offend them.

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Jonathan H. SANDERS

   

I also think there is a general misunderstanding about this agreement which should be cleared up.  

If I understand correctly, we will continue to be paid for weekends when we are expected to work or be on call.  When that happens, the current workload provisions would still apply. That means the organizations will not be able to simply issue a contract on Saturday to someone who has worked all week to get two more sessions from him or her.  If an organization issued a last minute contract of that type, they would still have to pay the weekend and take into account the sessions that interpreter had already worked throughout the week.  So this provision only affects weekends at an interpreter's domicile when he or she is not to be on call.  The long contracts I referred to in my previous post do include weekend meetings. This means that (all else being equal) some weekends, interpreters will be expected to be on call and thus will continue to be paid.  That is not quite the same as never paying weekends at all to local interpreters, which is the impression I think some people have.



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Jonathan H. SANDERS

   

Dear Iouri,

I certainly will not dispute that the organizations want their numbers to go down as much as possible. However, you have to admit that those last four words, “as much as possible” are the reason the organizations pay us anything at all. The UN does not pay its interns, much less negotiate with them, because they know they don't have to do so. They do pay interpreters, however, because they know they have to or else their system would cease to function. Of course, they want that amount to be as low as possible. Hence they negotiate with us.

My point is that our most effective arguments seem to be those that demonstrate objectively that not acceding to our demands prevents their system from functioning. The organizations would love it if we would work more hours per week. The reason why workload conditions remain virtually unchanged is because they are based on an objective, concrete, logical standard. If the organizations violated that standard, interpretation would be unsustainable and their system would stop working. So they end up accepting it, albeit grudgingly, again and again. If the daily rate is based on an objective system (i.e. cost of living, number of days at a duty station), it ends up being part of that minimum that they grudgingly have to give us. But if it's defined arbitrarily, then it's always up for grabs. That is why I referred to logical arguments (i.e. based on an objective standard). I have no illusions about the UN having nothing but goodwill towards interpreters. Rather, it is precisely because the organizations would pay us nothing if they could that our arguments are more effective if they demonstrate objectively, logically, and concretely that it would be impossible to do so.

Effectiveness is really my only concern; I want a strategy that will work. Dominique said that an interpreter in Geneva can expect to lose 15% of his or her income under the new system, and Helène put that figure around 25-30%. I have my doubts about both of those figures (for reasons I will state below), but let us say they are correct for the sake of argument. Do you want to go to the organizations and tell them that we really miss being paid 15-30% of the time to sit at home on the weekends? Does that have any chance of working? I don't think so. In fact, I think it would backfire. The UN is made up of the governments of the world and many governments in the world seem to be on the verge of bankruptcy. Like anyone else who is short on cash, those governments are looking for any expenses they can cut. Shouting at the administration that we earn 30% of our income sitting at home on the weekends seems somewhat akin to putting a bull's-eye on our collective back. Especially since the organizations specifically said they would not renegotiate that point. It's not a question of logic in a theoretical or philosophical sense. It is entirely a question of being pragmatic, and if I oppose that strategy it is because it simply will not work.

You asked Nyssa Gregory in this thread why she signed off on this agreement even though she had been so adamantly against offering paid weekends as a concession. I think the obvious answer to that is that neither she nor the rest of the ND had much of a choice. In my opinion, that speaks for itself.

Do you disagree? Do you think it will work? If not, do you have an idea of how you think we should proceed? I'm really not being facetious—if you feel that you have a better idea which is likely to be successful, I would very much encourage you to share it.

As regards young people, I would just say that even without the weekends, established interpreters will still have periods of unavailability. That will always be an incentive to take on new people, besides the natural turnover that happens with time.

Finally, I feel compelled to add a few finishing touches to the picture that Dominique painted of the Geneva market. An interpreter domiciled in Geneva can indeed benefit from 6-7 weekends per year--”can” being the operative word. I would nuance by saying that if an interpreter domiciled in Geneva counts on 6-7 weekends per year, it is generally because he or she is systematically recruited for both the entire ILO Governing Body and the entire International Labor Conference. I could be wrong, but I do not believe that description fits the majority of interpreters in Geneva. The ILO has unique language needs (i.e. German and often Portuguese), so people with one of the non-UN languages or three passive UN languages tend to be the ones who most benefit from that provision. In any case, besides those two very specific examples, a local interpreter could only “expect” to receive paid weekends when working once or twice a year for a major two-week conference like the WHA or the WIPO Assemblies. On every other day of the year, weekends are purely an aberration. The organizations try at all costs to avoid paying them, and they usually do so successfully.

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Iouri OSTROVSKI

   

Hi Jonathan,

Don't worry about having misspelled my name, no offense taken :-).

More substantial: you seem to believe in virtue of logic. Wonderful, so do I! However you probably need to consider that something you or I find logical will seem completely illogical to an administrator; I mean by that there is no ONE logic for everyone, otherwise the life would have been much more easier for everyone, except interpreters who would not be able to have that much work and spend endless hours helping to bail out Greece or to save our planet as everyone would bow in front of ONE logic.

Unfortunately for the humanity and fortunately for us it is not the case: we all have our own logic (try to discuss things with your wife/husband or girl/boyfriend from the pure logical standpoint and you'll see what I mean :-) ) and the formal logic taught in philosophy departements is rarely used in REAL life.

Moreover you seem to believe that administrators speak the language of numbers and you deduct from that it will be possible to beat them (or to win them) with the numbers based arguments. Grave erreur, as they say at this side of the French-Switzerland border! Administrators speak the language of ECONOMIES, the only thing they are interested in is the numbers which go DOWN, and it doesn't matter what is the justification for this. To convince you I'll advice to go a little bit back in time and look at the initial proposals made to us since say last three rounds of negociations (15 years) and at the justifications given. You will find out that the arguments may change but the motto is the same: LESS,LESS,LESS. Dominique Leveillé in his post confirms just that.

Last thing: my argument about the closing door for the "young" interpreters was not based on the distinction between interpreters of the categories I and II. First of all there are some rules preventing the orgs to put two interpreters II in the booth which is bad for interpreters II but is offset by the fact that someway the interpreters II are cheaper and thus more attractive for the employer.

But it was not about that. I guess in Geneva an interpreter can - relatively -soon become an interpreter I and still be considered as a beginner for the employement purposes meaning that the chief interpreter will never spontaneously think of recruiting him/her if not forced to change the usual composition of teams. and in the new system they will have no incentives to do that.

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Katherine KAUFFMAN

   

The header to this report says ".... The full text of the new draft Agreement will be published on the Extranet as soon as it becomes available."
When will it be available? It seems moot to be debating issues without the full context AND TEXT of the actual proposal.

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Dominique LEVEILLÉ

   

Pour contribuer à brosser un tableau complet de la situation, je précise qu'à Genève (principale ville du secteur Nations Unies en termes de nombres de jours de travail pour les free-lance), les week-ends payés restent une réalité dans bon nombre d'institutions spécialisées (contrairement à l'ONU), et qu'un interprète "genevois" peut très bien bénéficier de 6 ou 7 week-ends payés dans l'année, avec un nombre total de jours inférieur à 100 sur ce marché. Pour de nombreux interprètes du secteur domiciliés à Genève, le nouvel accord entraînerait donc, s'il était adopté, une baisse de rémunération de l'ordre de 15%. Cette perte serait loin d'être compensée par l'éventuelle augmentation de la rémunération évoquée dans le rapport de la DN (3% pour le taux suisse). On me corrigera si je me trompe, mais je n'ai pas souvenir d'une renégociation qui aurait entraîné pareille baisse de la rémunération.

Autre information : le BIT a lancé aujourd'hui des options pour des réunions en 2013, offres déjà structurées sur le modèle du «futur» accord, avec découpage en semaines (de 6 jours, il est vrai). Pour les deux sessions du Conseil d'administration, plusieurs interprètes ont reçu des offres de 26 jours au total au lieu de 29, soit une baisse de la rémunération de 10,35% pour le même nombre de séances. Ces offres ont été faites inhabituellement tôt, puisque généralement elles sont lancées en juin ou en juillet. Étonnant, non ?

Dominique Leveillé

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Jonathan H. SANDERS

   

P.S. Iouri, forgive me for misspelling your name.

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Jonathan H. SANDERS

   

Hello Irouri,

You have actually made some of my points for me. It's true that WE were seen as compensation for low daily rates in long contracts. My point is that since locals rarely receive long contracts nowadays (at least in GVA), it no longer serves that purpose. Added to the fact that our interlocutors don't want it and it has drawbacks for us, I don't think it makes sense to defend it. You are right in saying that the daily rates should be higher than they currently stand. Whether the new mechanism will deliver this ultimately remains to be seen, since the rates listed in the report are only indicative of what current rates would be if the new agreement were already in force. By July, presumably, the rates would be higher. In any case, since the effects of raising rates would apply to every contract, it would be a much more effective measure than the paid local WEs for ensuring an adequate income.

I must disagree however with your comment about the current WE system being a way to open the door to newcomers. I should know since slightly over a year and a half ago, I was an Interpreter II myself. Because the UN in Geneva, for whatever reason, has a recruitment and programming system which can most diplomatically be described as "erratic", interpreters (permanents, beginning and experienced freelancers alike) are frequently put in meetings without any notice or relevant information. Since Interpreter IIs are just beginning, they are always available and thus susceptible to be recruited in those conditions. This is counterintuitive, because it is precisely as a beginner that you most need to be kept on a full meeting that you can prepare for and sink your teeth into, ideally over several days at a time. It is not helpful to be sporadically dropped into the middle or end of difficult meetings with no preparation, which is exactly what the current WE situation promotes. I agree with Paul that the Interpreter II rates are too low. The only possible good faith justification for their existence is to compensate the organizations for the training of a beginner in protected circumstances. That is supposed to be the organizations' incentive for appropriately planning to welcome the "Relève", not the weekends. To be fair, sometimes the UN does take the correct approach...but only sometimes. The current WE system actually promotes a more careless treatment of Interpreter IIs and creates the fragmented contracts that all freelance interpreters receive to our detriments.


This brings me back to a more general point about encouraging a logical system. You say that we shouldn't abandon a provision simply for the sake of logic. My opinion is that logic is the best weapon we have in convincing administrations of our need for proper conditions and remuneration. Lofty, self-serving but unsubstantiated claims are convincing to us, but not necessarily to anyone else. Simply digging in our heels is sometimes useful, but not as our only strategy. The more rational and fact-based our claims are, the more indisputable they are by the organizations and by individual administrators. The proof of this is the fact that the workload provisions have remained unchanged, because they are based on a logical, objective standard, namely the infamous medical study. I have not done a statistical analysis, but my impression is that the organizations get an excellent deal. In Switzerland, organizations with very technical and/or politically sensitive meetings get local professional interpreters for around half of going levels of remuneration on the private market (at least), with tailor-made language combinations to boot. Imagine if we could quantify and demonstrate that based on those facts and the cost of living that they get the best quality-price ratio possible. It would be a different conversation. If you know that your competent, professional service provider has been giving you a 50% discount, it is much more difficult to refuse their request for a comparatively small social security element. Beyond that, imagine if we were even able to quantify and demonstrate that they would save money overall by treating us better in some way. The administrator seeking his or her promotion would be an ally instead of a threat. The point I'm trying to make is that we can all flap our gums for free, but that is not really why we became professional interpreters. We became interpreters so that we could talk to people in their language, for a price. So if administrators speak numbers and spreadsheet categories, we have to try to talk to them in their language. Instead of stolidly insisting on an illogical spreadsheet category (i.e. paid WE to non-permanent local staff), our first strategy should be to actively search for a way to achieve our aims which makes their spreadsheet look nice. I think the process would be more seamless that way.

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Iouri OSTROVSKI

   

Hi Jonathan,

If we discuss for the sake of argument I might say that I don't entirely disagree with some arguments you developped. However there are some twists which are too sharp for me. For ex., you said that administrators hate the unjustified expenses. Fare enough, everybody does. But you strangely jump from this general statement to qualifying the WE payments as unjustified. This is for sure anything but an axiome. One can imagine multiple justifications for such a payments, for instance as they try to assimilate us to the permanent staff (indexation on the grade/step, etc) it would represent our "holidays" payment we don't receive otherwise. I gave another justification for this payment confirmed by Hélène in her post: UN low rates were accepted by our predecessors on condition UN offered long contracts with the WE paid. If this is not the case anymore these rates should be popped up much more substantially than they are in a new proposed draft. You see that as yourself, I am not against in prinicple the abandon of the WE payment but on certain conditions. You qualified the existing formula illogocal which it might well be. But as illogical as it can be we shouldn't simply abandon it for the sake of logic because it is not about logic after all but about our living, isn't it?

As far as discrimination is concerned, i agree one can find arguments pro and contra, especially about locals and non-locals, but there is another consequence you might have overlooked: you seem to welcome the fact that in new system the chief interpreter will have free hand to hire for Monday the same team wich worked for him all the previous week, and most probably he/she will do. Which will close the one of not so many doors open to newcomers and beginners to get a chance to work for the organisation. The old system, with all its flaws, allowed some rotation "forcing" the organizations to recruit someone else. It is undoubtful, and I hope, you agree with that, that the new one will close this door. We often speak about "la relève", sounds very good and noble indeed but are we really ready to give way to someone on our own expenses? In old system we had no choice, in new one they will have no chance.

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Paul BELOPOLSKY

   

This discussion is extremely important and it’s getting very interesting.

I want to say right off the bat that I am not overly enthusiastic about this draft Agreement, but having said that, I do think that under the current circumstances, it is the best we could have possibly hoped for.

I would in particular like to refer to Helene’s thoughtful and lengthy comment. It is too bad that she devotes so little space to developing the more interesting part of her critique and concentrates the main brunt of her attack on the weekend issue and specifically on what she sees as the inherent discrimination in the new rules.

I believe that the points Helen makes about the totally absurd 221 day divider used by the Organizations are extremely valid. If there is one feature of the new system used to calculate the rates that is truly unacceptable it is this. Why AIIC should have accepted this random and wholly unjustifiable variable (at least on the free-lance market), is a question to which I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer. Perhaps that is because there simply is none to be found. I cannot understand why the AIIC Negotiating Delegation could not, based on widely available statistics collected by AIIC itself, demonstrate to the UN the absurdity of this divider. It is certainly an issue I hope will be illuminated at greater length at the World Sectoral.

I also completely agree with Helene’s comment about the 9% social security contribution, which again seems entirely random and inexplicable. If we are to be treated like staff, then the UN has to apply the same system for calculating social security/pension contributions as it does for staff, as the EU does. The fact that there is no ‘real’ pension contribution but only a notional one is just as galling.

Now let us move on to the weekend issue. No one is happy about having to give up paid weekends but the argument that it is inherently discriminatory is completely inadmissible. Helene, you want to talk about discrimination? How about the fact that Swiss colleagues earn a 100 or more Euros a day more than their out of town colleagues brought in to work in Geneva. This is not merely a problem of the strong Swiss France, though it has exacerbated it. But even at a lower exchange rate, the local Swiss rate would still dwarf the World Rate. That IS discrimination. One of the reasons the aborted 2005 Agreement was thrown out Helene if you recall is because it introduced a ludicrous Europe rate, under which the difference in remuneration would have been even more stark between Swiss-based and non-Swiss based colleagues working in Geneva. The absolutely scandalous discrimination it would have instituted did not seem to bother you then, nor does the current unacceptable difference in the remuneration between two colleagues working in the same booth seem to bother you now.

Let’s talk about discrimination. How about the beginner rate in the UN? How do you explain younger colleagues being paid 60 % of the full rate, sometimes for several years, and bearing the full burden of responsibility for any screw-up? I mean if we consider the regular UN rate as low, how do you qualify a rate that is 40 % lower? Slave wages? As far as I am concerned, there is nothing conceptually discriminatory in paying weekends for out of town colleagues who have to spend the weekend away from their families and remain on call in case they are called in to work, while not paying weekends to local colleagues who can go on with their normal lives, and even accept private market work if they so wish. We may not like the new arrangement, but the argument that it contravenes a fundamental principle of AIIC doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Lastly Helene, the conclusion that the non-payment of weekends to local FLs would somehow benefit imported FLs at the expense of locals defies any logic. If anything it will give local FLs a considerable advantage by making them cheaper than non-locals. Think of it, any Chief Interpreter in his right mind will prefer to hire a local for 5 days and get 8 sessions out of him/her, and then hire another local for Saturday say, and get another 2 sessions – that’s 10 sessions in all – while paying for only 6 days, rather than have to pay a non-local colleague the weekend (7 days) without getting any extra sessions out of it. That’s not even factoring in the DSA and travel expenses. It’s a no-brainer as far as I am concerned.

That doesn’t mean I am happy about giving up paid weekends. But rather than be unhappy about the principle, which to me is a non-argument, I am unhappy because there wasn’t a proper debate about it beforehand and we are not getting enough in return. In fact any debate on the issue was curtailed and discouraged even though I tried to initiate such a discussion. I am also worried about a possible problem raised in an earlier post. There is nothing in the new arrangement that prevents an unscrupulous Chief Interpreter from offering an extra day to a colleague who has already done his/her 8 sessions in 5 days, and knowing that the flesh is weak, chances are that put on the spot, many a colleague would accept such a pact with the devil.

That being said, I think we need to look at the situation around us. Governments all over Europe and beyond are swinging the ax at public spending like Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’. Organizations are having to make difficult decisions about which programs to cut. A zero-nominal growth budget is considered a victory nowadays. Today, unlike the situation in 2005 when the ND at the time tried to use the supposedly harsh realities of the day to get us to sign off on a truly unacceptable draft Agreement, the situation is calamitous by definition. Managing to get an Agreement along the lines of what is being proposed to us isn’t a bad outcome at all.

Sure it will need some tweaking. We need to insist on having a more frequent revision of the currency exchange rate for the dollar, we also need to see if there is any way to get the UN to agree to a real social security contribution based on an EU-type system, as well as a revision of the 221 day divider on the grounds that it is entirely out of the realm of science fiction. If they will not agree to it for this draft Agreement it would be good if we could get them to accept the notion of a possible revision in the next one. In other words, while we may and I think should, accept the draft Agreement in its current form, nothing prevents us from lodging very serious reservations as to key parts of that Agreement, including the non-payment of weekends to locals by the way, to already open the door on a possible renegotiation or revision.

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Hélène CIOLKOVITCH

   

Il convient avant toute chose de remercier la DN pour tout le travail effectué pour la négociation de décembre dernier. La DN a obtenu notamment deux résultats excellents :

- une augmentation substantielle du taux de New York, de l’ordre de 20% et
- l’application de l’Accord par l’OMI, avec augmentation du taux de base de 40%.

On l’en félicite, car pour le taux de New York, il aura fallu huit rencontres entre l’AIIC et les organisations pour obtenir le réajustement que la DN réclame instamment depuis avril 2005.

Pour l’OMI, c’est tout simplement un retour à la normale, également demandé par l’AIIC depuis 2005. Les 40% d’augmentation du taux de base au Royaume-Uni représentent en réalité une économie de 20% pour l’organisation, puisque les interprètes FL recrutés jusque-là par l’organisation étaient payés 160% du taux de base, sans qu’aucune des conditions de travail ne soit appliquée (nombre de séances, effectifs, week-ends, etc…).
La correction de cette anomalie est une excellente chose, car il s’agit du respect des principes.


Calcul de la rémunération.
Les FL seront désormais rattachés au grade P4 échelon 6 du calcul de la rémunération des fonctionnaires permanents de l’ONU. Ce qui en soi est une bonne chose. La DN ne précise pas si c’est avec personne à charge, mais en faisant les calculs sur la base de la grille des salaires de la CFPI et en les comparant aux chiffres du tableau des taux du rapport de la DN, cela semble être le cas. Dans toutes les négociations précédentes, l’AIIC avait demandé ce point de référence. Toutefois, quelques questions demeurent préoccupantes :

-   Si on est aligné sur les fonctionnaires permanents alors pourquoi ne pas bénéficier du même pourcentage de sécurité sociale que les fonctionnaires permanents, à savoir 16% et pas 9% ? D’autant plus que le prélèvement obligatoire demeure impossible.
-   Pourquoi ne pas compter ce pourcentage de la sécurité sociale sur ce qu’on appelle la « pensionable remuneration » ou rémunération prise en compte aux fins de la pension, comme c’est le cas pour les fonctionnaires permanents ?
-   La formule proposée « base rate + 9% Social Security + Post ajustment » fait perdre 6-7% du taux dans chaque ville-siège.

-    Le diviseur 221. C’est un pur facteur comptable utilisé par les administrations à des fins budgétaires pour calculer le coût journalier des fonctionnaires, mais qui n’a jamais empêché ces derniers, y compris les interprètes permanents, d’être payés les week-ends. D’autre part, aucun interprète permanent de la planète ONU ne travaille 221 jours par an. Quant aux FL, si jamais ce nombre a eu autrefois une réalité, celle-ci remonte à plus de 30 ans ! A l’heure actuelle, un interprète FL travaille en moyenne, les bonnes années et au faîte de sa carrière, un maximum de 120-130 jours de travail par an. Quant aux entrants dans la profession, ce nombre est plutôt de l’ordre de 60-70 dans le meilleur des cas. On est loin des 221 retenus pour la base de calcul ! Ne faudrait-il pas réviser ce nombre à la baisse pour lui donner une certaine correspondance avec le réel ? Par ailleurs, n’est-il pas juste qu’un FL puisse continuer de compter sur le paiement des week-ends dans la continuité de ses contrats, comme ses collègues permanents ?

-   La rémunération sera calculée en dollars US et convertie en monnaie locale, ce qui présente le risque bien réel de perte de gain en cas de baisse du dollar malgré l’UNORE. Rappelons que la création des taux en monnaie locale par ville-siège avec le système de l’indexation axé sur le COL local a résulté de l'abandon de la convertibilité en or du dollar en 1971 ce qui a entraîné des fluctuations des taux de change importantes. Il a fallu trouver un système pour compenser une perte de la valeur réelle de la rémunération pour la plus grande partie des interprètes ne vivant pas dans la zone dollar.

-   Enfin, compte tenu de la situation financière mondiale et onusienne, on n’est pas à l’abri d’un gel de la rémunération des fonctionnaires décidé par l’AG de l’ONU comme ce fut le cas par deux fois dans le passé. Jusqu’ici, la rémunération des interprètes y avait échappé grâce au système de l’indexation.



Taux Monde - ajustement
Calculé dans l’Accord 2007-2011 comme moyenne des 6 ville-siège, le taux monde sera maintenant calculé sur la base de 13 ville-siège : les 6 ville-siège actuelles + Montréal et Madrid (créées) + le Kenya, l’Ethiopie, le Liban, la Thaïlande, le Chili. Cela ne manquera pas de maintenir le taux monde à un taux faible, voire d’empêcher toute augmentation ? Pourquoi ne pas maintenir le calcul actuel avec moyenne des 8 ville-siège ?

Statut de l’interprète FL
Il importe pour continuer de bénéficier de l’exonération fiscale que les interprètes FL soient considérés comme des « officials » de l’organisation. Dans le cas contraire, les organisations ne pourront plus délivrer les attestations indispensables aux FL pour leur déclaration d’impôts dans le pays où ils sont résident fiscal et l’exonération fiscale sera perdue.


J’ai laissé pour la fin le problème le plus grave.

Le non-paiement des week-ends pour les locaux seulement.

Le nombre des séances n’a pas été touché, on s’en félicite. Le Secteur a toujours mandaté la DN pour le maintien des conditions de travail. L’AIIC dispose de nombreux documents pour les justifier. D’ailleurs, la Sectorielle de septembre 2011 avait fait sienne la proposition des organisations en mai de faire procéder à une étude médicale étant entendu qu’on ne toucherait pas aux conditions de travail jusqu’à la publication des résultats de l’étude. Qu’en est-il ?

La DN a dû accepter, à contre cœur nous dit-elle, la suppression du paiement des week-ends pour les interprètes FL recrutés localement, alors qu’il serait maintenu pour les non locaux ! C’était une condition sine qua non pour les organisations. Si cette clause n’était pas acceptée par la DN, il n’y avait pas d’accord.

Le paiement des week-ends fait partie intégrante des conditions de travail. La rémunération d’une journée-interprète a été négociée et fixée à un niveau nettement inférieur aux taux pratiqués sur le marché privé à l’époque en raison de l’exonération fiscale, certes, mais aussi parce que l’ONU était un grand employeur offrant de longs contrats avec week-ends payés. L’ONU (New York, Genève, Vienne, Nairobi) a perdu depuis longtemps son statut de grand employeur, ces 4 organisations offrant un nombre de journées-interprète FL par an équivalant à celui de 2 institutions spécialisées de Genève… Il est étonnant que les institutions spécialisées qui dépendent entièrement des FL pour l’organisation de leurs conférences s’accordent avec les exigences de l’ONU qui, grâce à sa politique de recrutement et son système de prêt peut quasiment se passer de FL.

Quelle que soit l’insistance des organisations, cette exigence n’est tout simplement pas acceptable.

Quoi qu’on puisse dire sur la forme de la réserve du membre de la DN pour l’Autriche, à laquelle s’est associé le membre pour la France, concernant cette clause « week-ends payés pour les non-locaux, non-payés pour les locaux et parfois négociables au coup par coup », elle montre bien la réticence de la DN à s’engager sur la voie proposée par les organisations. On s’étonne d’ailleurs que le membre de la DN pour la Suisse ne se soit pas associé à cette réserve, car, la moitié du volume des journées-interprète FL travaillées dans le Secteur s’effectue en Suisse et les interprètes FL locaux qui y travaillent seront profondément affectés par cette mesure.

Avec tout le respect dû au porte-parole, ce dernier n’aurait pas du engager la DN. On se souvient comment, Président de l’AIIC, il a, pendant ses deux mandats, vaillamment défendu les principes de la profession. Ce « deal breaker » pour les organisations est une question de principe tellement fondamentale pour l’AIIC, l’égalité de traitement, elle entraîne une perte de gains si importante pour tous les interprètes FL locaux de toutes les villes-siège que cela aurait dû être un « deal-breaker » pour la DN aussi. Il fallait revenir devant une Sectorielle et consulter les membres. Cela dit, on comprend bien les difficultés et la pression extrêmes dans lesquelles se déroule toute négociation, et mon objectif ici n’est pas de faire une critique stérile, mais d’expliquer pourquoi le Secteur puis l’AIIC ne peuvent accepter cette proposition et de donner tous les arguments à la DN pour qu’elle retourne à la table des négociations.

L’AIIC ne peut accepter cette proposition :

1.   Parce qu’elle introduit une discrimination de traitement entre FL pour un même contrat. Outre le fait qu’il est tout à fait incroyable que l’ONU puisse articuler une telle proposition alors que la Charte des Nations Unies a comme principe fondamental l’élimination de toute discrimination, l’AIIC ne saurait apposer sa signature au bas d’un Accord qui entérinerait une discrimination.
2.   Cette différence de traitement au sein d’une même équipe entraînerait une perte de gain de 25 à 30% selon les cas pour tous les interprètes recrutés localement, dans chacune des ville-siège : New York, Paris, Londres, Genève, Vienne, Rome, c’est-à-dire pour les trois-quarts du volume de travail total dans le Secteur Nations Unies !
3.   Parce qu’il serait déraisonnable de faire un cadeau de plus d’1million de dollars par an aux organisations en échange de quelques dollars/euros/francs/livres d’augmentation de la rémunération journalière ! Dans une négociation, on ne cède pas un acquit en échange de rien.
4.   Le but d’un Accord est de protéger le revenu et les conditions de travail des interprètes au sens de l’article 4 des Statuts de l’AIIC.
5.   Les Normes professionnelles de l’AIIC stipulent à l’article 8 :
JOURS NON OUVRES
Tout contrat devrait contenir une clause couvrant les jours non ouvrés…

En acceptant une telle inégalité de traitement, l’AIIC accepterait de léser les interprètes FL de 25-30% de leur revenu sans même qu’ils bénéficient de la compensation existant sur le marché privé !
6.   In fine, cette clause conduirait à favoriser le recrutement des interprètes non-locaux, ce qui va à l’encontre de la « politique du Conseil qui est d’encourager le recrutement d’interprètes locaux » comme on peut le lire à la page 3 de l’Annuaire, édition 2012.
7.   Les autorités de l’AIIC, Président/Bureau/Conseil ne sauraient accepter, encore moins légaliser une discrimination quelle qu’elle soit.

Quelles seraient les conséquences si le Secteur puis l’AIIC venaient à accepter une telle proposition :

-   le nombre de FL locaux, progressivement, décroîtrait jusqu’à disparaître dans chaque ville-siège (voir l’exemple de NY où la politique de recrutement de l’organisation a fini par tuer le marché FL). Simone Trenner a tout à fait raison dans son analyse : l’inégalité de traitement au sein d’une même équipe entraînerait une très mauvaise ambiance entre les collègues. Elle aurait également pour conséquence une rivalité entre collègues, et au-delà de l’inégalité de traitement financier, il y aurait également inégalité de la charge de travail, baisse de la qualité, perte de la continuité, accroissement de la précarité, etc….
-    Le système proposé de négocier certains week-ends au coup par coup avec le chef interprète ou le recruteur est totalement irréalisable dans la pratique et entraînerait des éléments négatifs supplémentaires.
-   une ville-siège comme Genève qui n’a cessé depuis la grande crise des Nations Unies des années 1980 de perdre des FL locaux précisément en raison de la compression du volume de travail offert, deviendra une ville désertée. Et les institutions spécialisées ne pourront plus puiser dans le réservoir de FL comme elles l’ont fait jusqu’à présent.
-   Quant à la relève que l’AIIC appelle de ses vœux, elle serait à terme tuée dans l’œuf.
-   L’AIIC perdrait toute crédibilité comme Association défendant les intérêts de la profession d’interprète, et la profession tout court.

Un accord doit fixer des conditions équitables pour tous les interprètes qui travaillent dans un Secteur. Sinon, à quoi bon le négocier ? L’administration a tenté là un coup de bluff et on ne peut s’expliquer que la DN ait pu envisager d’accepter qu’en raison des tensions de la négociation. Pour avoir participé à plusieurs négociations, y compris comme coordonnatrice, je sais la pression, la fatigue et le sentiment de frustration qu’on peut éprouver en face des administrateurs de l’ONU dont le seul objectif est de réaliser des économies financières. Si l’AIIC refuse cette clause, les administrateurs avec lesquels elle négocie ne perdront pas un cent de leur salaire, en revanche, si elle accepte de faire ce cadeau aux organisations cela grèvera de 20% le pouvoir d’achat de chaque FL à chaque contrat avec week-end. A méditer !

A terme, l’objectif déclaré de l’ONU (cf leur proposition de juillet 2011 si violemment critiquée à fort juste titre par l’un des membres actuels de la DN) est de ne payer les interprètes FL que pour le travail effectué en cabine, c’est-à-dire à la tâche. Et si l’AIIC cède ainsi du terrain, on arrivera à être payé toujours moins pour effectuer un travail toujours plus stressant dans des conditions toujours plus difficiles. Actuellement, la FAO veut introduire le système du WAE (When actually employed) imposé à NY il y a des années, mais auxquels l’AIIC a résisté à l’ONUG et l’ONUV. Le WAE est une manière habile de se soustraire à l’application de nombreux éléments de l’Accord.

Dans les documents de l’AG 2011 des Nations Unies, notamment concernant l’adoption du budget 2012/2013 qui s’élève à 5 milliards 152 millions de dollars, réalisant une baisse de 300 millions par rapport à l’année précédente, on peut y lire, « le Secrétaire général (…) a promis de revenir l’année prochaine avec de plus grandes économies encore ». Ce n’est pas faire preuve de pessimisme que d’imaginer que les organisations, lors de la négociation d’un accord futur, reviendront avec des mesures plus drastiques encore !

Le point de départ de la négociation n’est pas la proposition des organisations de Juillet 2011, mais l’Accord actuel. Ne l’oublions pas.
Le moment est venu de revenir aux fondamentaux.
Le porte-parole a raison de dire que la DN négocie des conditions pour l’ensemble du Secteur.
Les principes n’ont pas d’âge. Ils sont universels et restent valables quelle que soit l’époque. A chacun de nous de décider ce qu’il est prêt à faire pour défendre la dignité de notre profession.

L’AIIC est-elle prête à démanteler un de ses piliers ?
L’AIIC est-elle prête à accepter la mise en lambeaux de son premier secteur conventionné ? Faut-il rappeler que ce sont des permanents de l’ONU qui ont eu, les premiers, l’idée de créer une association internationale d’interprètes pour défendre la profession d’interprète tel un ordre professionnel ? Rappelons-nous que l’Accord AIIC/Nations Unies est le plus ancien des Accords (1968). A une époque où les marchés financiers font loi partout, allons-nous nous laisser balayer par une administration avide de réaliser des profits ?

L’AIIC ne peut pas accepter d’entériner une telle discrimination parce qu’elle doit regarder vers l’avenir, et qu’au-delà de la perte de revenus concrète pour les membres individuellement de tout le Secteur Nations Unies en local (membres de l’AIIC et non-membres, puisque l’AIIC négocie pour ses membres et pour les non-membres), c’est tout un Secteur qui va disparaître.

Qu’on me comprenne bien ! Je n’essaie pas ici de protéger mon gagne-pain personnel, même s’il se trouvera bien amputé au cas où cette clause inacceptable devait passer, je suis bien consciente de la réalité des marchés et de la situation toujours plus faible de l’interprète FL face à l’organisation. Quant aux jeunes, ils se tourneront vers d’autres professions, car celle d’interprète FL ne leur permettra pas de vivre. Et c’est bien cela que l’AIIC doit protéger, les intérêts individuels et collectifs de toute une profession, sinon elle perd sa raison d’être.

Ce sera à la Sectorielle Mondiale du 17 mars de se prononcer. D’ici là, les réunions sectorielles locales seront l’occasion de discussions préparatoires approfondies.

Hélène Ciolkovitch

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Jonathan H. SANDERS

   

First of all, congratulations to the ND for what turned out to be rather successful negotiations.

I have a few comments on this issue of non-paid weekends for local interpreters. After changing my mind a couple of times about it in the past, I do not think that the non-payment of weekends for locals should prevent interpreters from accepting the negotiated agreement.

In any negotiation, the parties have to understand each others' underlying motivations and priorities in order to get what they want. If not, we would simply dictate a list of demands which would be automatically implemented. AIIC was negotiating with administrators. Administrators live in the world of numbers and financial oversight. The bane of their existence are unjustifiable expenses. Logically then, we cannot make headway with an administrator by insisting he or she accept unjustified expenses. Does that mean we agree to work for rates that don't allow us to live comfortably? No, but it does mean we have to frame our argument in a way that is potentially acceptable to our interlocutors.

With this in mind, I think it is a mistake to conflate paid weekends with remuneration in general. It's one thing to say that the daily rate and number of days at a particular HQ are too low to justify setting one's domicile there. If that is the case, we should simply say so and then argue for a higher daily rate or a different administrative regime altogether. That argument would be valid and comprehensible. That is not however, a justification for the specific formula of paid weekends for locals when they are not under contract.

The perverse effects forecasted by some in this thread (i.e. parachuting, shorter working week, treating locals as stop-gaps) are already the norm in Geneva. Ironically enough, they seem to have become the norm because of and not in spite of the weekend provision. The organizations avoid hiring the same people on a Monday that they did last Friday, specifically so that they can avoid paying weekends. This means that we often get contracts for four days in one organization, and one day somewhere else. In other words, instead of doing 8 sessions in 7 days, we end up doing 9 sessions in 5 days, with all of the ensuing implications (i.e. quality issues, stress, etc.). In the absence of paid weekends, I foresee the opposite happening. Namely, hiring would become more consistent overall because there would no longer be a financial incentive for not staffing an entire meeting with the same interpreters.

I also suspect that the weekend clause causes a lot of other perverse effects which are not necessarily in our interest. I have been in many preparatory meetings for conferences where organizers have highlighted interpreting as the main expense. Since the financial crisis, some organizations have significantly reduced their non-permanent staff in many departments. In some organizations, there are no longer people in most offices in some parts of the building. So it is not a stretch for me to imagine that conferences are regularly shortened or canceled because of the cost of interpretation. This would mean not only fewer interpreting days to go around, but also that conferences move at a faster pace when they are held. That faster pace also leads to an increase in stress and quality issues, not just for the interpreters but often the attendees themselves. This phenomenon is not entirely avoidable. Interpreting will always cost money, and administrators will always try to reduce costs. I doubt, however, that paid weekends for local interpreters is a positive, mitigating factor.

Furthermore, I simply don't find the discrimination issue to be a plausible argument. Locals and non-locals were always paid differently, and it is always more advantageous financially for the organizations to hire locals (i.e. no DSA, no travel expenses). That will not change in the absence of paid weekends for locals.

In short, if we need more money for our jobs to be profitable or to maintain a decent standard of living we should just say so, and propose an appropriate mechanism for that purpose. I don't think the way to achieve that is defending an illogical formula which at best was only a partial solution, and which is a priori unacceptable to our negotiating partners.

P.S. Just for the record, I am not against the the new rate calculation mechanism. I refer to proposing a mechanism for the sake of argument.

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Iouri OSTROVSKI

   

A mon avis c'est un très bon accord de beaucoup de points de vue mais qui reste difficilement acceptable à cause de non payement de WE pour les locaux. On a toujours dit, ou tout au moins j'ai toujours entendu les collègues dire que ce payement des WE était une - petite -compensation pour les tarifs très bas par rapport au tarifs des coordonnés, par exemple. Et là on abandonne purement et simplement cette - petite - compensation sans que les tarifs, qui certes montent mais pas assez, rattrappent ceux des coordonnés et en créant de surplus une concurrence entre les locaux et non locaux tandis que notre cheval de bataille était toujours un traitement égal entre les membres de la même équipe. Je comprends parfaitement la logique des organisations qui ne souhaitent pas payer les WE mais on pouvait imaginer la possibilité de les rémunérer à demi-tarif pour tous, locaux et non locaux, si on n'était pas amené à travailler, par exemple, le payement final se faisant en fonction du travail effectif . La solution proposée de les abandoner carrément, à mon avis, n'est pas la bonne. Quant à la petite carotte du genre "l'organisation va nous dire dès le départ si elle a besoin de nous le WE" c'est vraiment de nous prendre pour des imbéciles que de nous le faire croire: aucun chef interprète censé et intelligent ne proposera plus JAMAIS de contrats avec les WE à des locaux sachant très bien qu'en cas besoin pour le samedi il trouvera toujours des collègues qui seront heureux de pouvoir continuer une journée de plus, il n'y a qu'une feuille de contrat à imprimer et faire signer, pensez-vous donc! D'ailleurs ça se fait déjà sans problème pour des réunions prévues pour cinq jours et qui débordent pour une raison ou une autre sur le samedi. Pour l'instant cette pratique ne contredit l'accord en vigeur - l'organisation n'étant pas consciente dès le départ que la réunion allait se prolonger - mais maintenant cela va être une pratique habituelle pour le travail le WE, et bien sûr au détriment des locaux, car les non-locaux sont de toute manière engagés et déjà payés. Ce qui engendra, entre autre, la discirmination dans la charge du travail entre les locaux et non-locaux: sachant qu'il peut avoir besoin des non-locaux pour le WE, le chef-interprète chargera plus les locaux pendant la semaine pour ne pas dépasser la quota des réunions pour des non-locaux, qui, probablement, ne seront pas finalement amenés à travailler et auront donc moins de réunions. La discrimination ne sera donc pas seulement monétaire mais égalemnt dans les sacro-saintes conditions de travail...

Par ailleurs je ne comprends pas très bien la position de Nyssa qui a toujours été la defenseur la plus vocale de nos conditions de travail et de rémunération, et si ma mémoire est bonne, a été vicéralement contre la suppression de paiement des WE. D'un côté elle s'associe avec la déclaration d'Eliane Masry mais de l'autre côté elle dit qu'elle votera pour l'accord lors de la SM. C'est une logique que je n'arrive pas à saisir.

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Simone TRENNER

   

Considering where we started last summer, this draft agreement is a remarkable achievement and our colleagues of the ND deserve full credit and our sincere thanks. On many counts it is fairer, clearer and more balanced than the previous agreement.
As in any negotiations, something had to be sacrificed. Unfortunately, this time, the sacrificial lamb is a basic principle of AIIC: non-discrimination. I refer here to the "week-end clause".
Both the interpreters AND the Organizations stand to lose from this proposal:
A. The interpreters 

1) The week-end clause would drive a wedge and breed animosity between locals and non-locals : non-locals perceived to be privileged colleagues with long contracts and per diem - locals having to eke out a living on 1 to 3 days' work a week (and not every week at that) and whose only remedy to such a precarious situation would be to work as non-locals elsewhere.
2) A shorter working week – but a proportionately heavier workload, with 7 meetings over 4 days, instead of 8 meetings over 7 days.
3) Additional stress for locals : being thrown in at the deep end of an ongoing discussion – unwittingly lending credit to the notion that « interpreters don't get the finer points » when they come across references to what was said a few days before. Bad for their self-esteem but also for our image as professionals – and ultimately bad for AIIC.
B. The Organizations
1) Savings on paper, on one budget item, are likely to result in a loss of quality : paras 2) and 3) above explain why « parachuting » is counterproductive to efficient communication . Would they really gain by having Friday afternoon (dis)agreements, along the lines of the proverbial Friday afternoon cars ?
2) Treating locals as a pool of stop-gaps will simply dry up the supply of available locals, who will either drift towards the more profitable private market, work as non-locals for other organizations, or move to better locations. In the end, the Organizations would be almost totally dependent on non-locals – so much for long term savings !
3) Perhaps the Organizations are speculating on the possibility that in the next round (2016-2017) AIIC might give up paid week-ends for non-locals too ? The present UN negotiators will have moved to higher positions by then. Our own ND will have to be prepared.
The above comments are certainly not intended to be negative. I do understand the pressure on the ND, risking so much on that one concession. I do not even anticipate that a majority of colleagues will share my view that this is a matter of solidarity . I simply hope that you will send the ND back to the negotiating table with solid backing and sound arguments to convince the Organizations that in this respect, our interests are also in their own best interest. We must speak up : « il n'est pas nécessaire d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer ».
Simone Trenner

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Chermine ARNAOUT

   

I wanted to thank Eliane Masry for all the efforts she dedicated to the ND. She expressed the opinion of the silent majority of local interpreters. I am convinced that this kind of discrimination between locals and non locals in paid weekends will create an unhealty atmosphere between interpreters of the 2 categories.
Chermine Arnaout

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Jane Jian PIQUILLOUD-ZOU

   

8. New: A session straddling two working days across midnight will count as one session towards the first day.

9. New: A night-time rest provision of a minimum of 12 hours for all assignments after 20.00 (this is especially important in connection with the straddling late-night sessions described in paragraph 8 above).

What if the next day is a travel day? The mid night meetings happen very often on the last day of the meeting. We won't have 12 hours' rest before the flight time.

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