NORWEGIAN TRANSLATORS OF FICTION AND NON-FICTION LITERATURE WIN ACCEPTANCE FOR IMPROVED RATES OF REMUNERATION
The Norwegian Association of Literary Translators (NO) and the Norwegian Non-Fiction Writers and Translators Association (NFF) have finally won acceptance for their demands for improved rates of remuneration after five months of campaigning.
The negotiating committees of the Norwegian Association of Literary Translators, the Norwegian Non-Fiction Writers and Translators Association and the Norwegian Publishers Association reached a breakthrough in negotiations on 28 September 2006 with their acceptance of the recommended proposals for financial terms in a new translation agreement. These changes were implemented with effect from 1 October 2006 and the “Translators Campaign 2006” was brought to a close at the same time.
The Campaign Committee for the two translators associations characterizes the Translators Campaign 2006 as a success. All the demands presented have been accepted, even though it has not been possible to achieve full compensated for the gap between the earnings of translators and the wages of other members of Norwegian society. Nevertheless, the negotiated fee has been increased from NOK 207 to NOK 233 per translated page.
Furthermore, translators’ rates of remuneration will no longer follow the consumer price index. Instead, the translation fee will henceforth be index-linked to the wage developments of publishing house employees, and the first adjustment will take effect from 1 July 2007.
The fee payable for translations used in connection with the publication of audio books has been set at 25 per cent of the original fee. Yet another breakthrough is the Norwegian Publishers Association’s acceptance that a fee must be paid for the rights to electronic publication (15 per cent). In addition, considerable changes have been made to the system regarding the re-use of translations. A fee will now be payable for translations used five years after the year of publication - and no distinction will be made between reprints and new editions.
The work of the Translators Campaign 2006 shows that it pays to assert one’s rights in the campaign for improved rates of remuneration, and that Norwegian translators have loyally supported the Campaign Committee’s various initiatives.
NORWEGIAN TRANSLATORS OF FICTION AND NON-FICTION LITERATURE CAMPAIGN FOR IMPROVED RATES OF REMUNERATION
The Norwegian Association of Literary Translators (NO) and the Norwegian Non-Fiction Writers and Translators Association (NFF) instituted a campaign for improved rates of remuneration in April this year after negotiations with the Norwegian Publishers Association regarding the rate payable for the publication of translations broke down following protracted discussion.
NO and NFF have together founded the "Translators Campaign of 2006" in order to draw attention to the dilemma facing translators of fiction and non-fiction literature.
Significant decline in real earnings
Compared with the average rise in real wages experienced by Norwegian employees over the last 15 years, translators of fiction and non-fiction literature have seen their real earnings drop by a full 30 per cent. Against this background, NO and NFF had called for a 17.4 per cent increase in the standard rate of remuneration when they met with representatives for the Norwegian Publishers Association for a series of negotiations that began in the autumn of 2005.
In early April 2006, after the Norwegian Publishers Association had offered translators a mere 5.4 per cent, the two translators associations resolved to reject this offer and to leave the negotiating table. Since April, the Translators Campaign of 2006 has taken action in a number of ways in order to raise public awareness of the plight of literary and non-fiction translators and to bring the publishers to the realization that we mean business.
All translations are now delivered on paper only
Using the outdated wording of the currently applicable standard contract to great effect, the Translators Campaign of 2006 has decided that it is within its rights to instruct members of the two translators associations to follow the contract to the letter. Since April, all translations intended for delivery to publishing houses that are members of the Norwegian Publishers Association have been printed on paper and delivered by hand. No electronic version of the translation has been submitted to the publisher.
Naturally, this return to the old way of doing things has not been well received by the publishers themselves, since it means that the translated text has either to be scanned electronically or keyed in manually before it can be formatted and published.
The campaign continues
Five months into the campaign, the battle for recognition of the right of translators of fiction and non-fiction literature to be paid a decent fee continues unabated.
The demands of the “Translators Campaign 2006” are simple:
• We wish to be taken seriously! We are skilled professionals – not just an expense item on publishers’ budgets!
• Our rates of remuneration must be index-linked to wage developments; we should not be treated as commodities.
• We demand a standard rate of remuneration of no less than NOK 244 per page.
The translation of fiction and non-fiction literature is done as piece-work, with payment based on a standard rate negotiated between NO/NFF and the Norwegian Publishers Association. Norwegian translators of fiction and non-fiction literature are paid the same rate regardless of how well a book sells.
In 1991, Norwegian translators of fiction and non-fiction literature campaigned after receiving poor rates for many years. At the time, the normal annual workload for a translator was stipulated at 1,056 pages of translation a year. After around four months of conflict, the Norwegian Publishers Association offered the translators NOK 142 per translated page. This offer was accepted, even though it meant that a translator would have to translate 1,323 pages a year in order to earn the same as the average Norwegian wage-earner. Wage rates have risen considerably in Norway over the last fifteen years, but literary and non-fiction translators have not reaped the benefits of this trend. The standard rate of remuneration is currently NOK 207 per page. In order to achieve annual earnings on a par with the average Norwegian employee, we are now required to translate 1,732 pages a year. In other words, we would have to translate an extra 409 pages – a sizeable tome – each year merely in order to earn the same in relative terms as we did in 1992.
This is why we have chosen to leave the negotiating table and campaign for improved rates.
The reason why translators have fared so badly in relation to others is that our rates have been linked to the consumer price index, calculated on the basis of the price performance of selected goods. Over the last decade, the consumer price index has risen far less than wage developments in Norway, due in large part to automation of industry and the import of inexpensive goods from low-cost countries.
The gap between the earnings of translators and the wages of other members of Norwegian society continues to grow. Nevertheless, Norwegian publishers have said they are unwilling to remove the clause linking negotiated translation rates with the consumer price index.
Norwegian publishers would prefer to regard us as a commodity so that they can keep our prices down.
We have no wish to be compared with Chinese footwear, apples from Chile or timber from Lithuania.
Translators are often highly educated specialists. Furthermore, we work as freelancers, which means we have no guarantee that we will given a translation assignment. We are the ones who have to pay for our own pensions, office expenses and all forms of professional training.
Norwegian publishing houses earn a considerable amount of money from translated literature, yet they chose to underpay the individuals who deliver the copyrighted material on which the finished product is based.
Moreover, Norwegian publishers claim that translators of fiction and non-fiction literature should not be compared with Norwegian wage-earners.
Who on earth are we supposed to compare ourselves with?
Information about the two organisations that have
co-founded the Translators Campaign of 2006:
The Norwegian Association of Literary Translators (NO)
The objectives of the Norwegian Association of Literary Translators are to serve as a meeting place for Norwegian literary translators, to strive to enhance the quality of Norwegian translations, to protect the professional and financial interests of Norwegian literary translators as a group and, insofar as possible, to provide assistance to individual members.
The Norwegian Non-Fiction Writers and Translators Association (NFF):
The Norwegian Non-Fiction Writers and Translators Association (NFF) is a professional organization of writers and translators of non-fiction literature. The primary objective of the association is to protect the professional and financial interests of its members and to promote Norwegian non-fiction literature.
On behalf of writes and translators, NFF negotiates agreements with publishers to govern the publication of various types of non-fiction literature, e.g. books, textbooks, articles in professional journals, encyclopedia articles etc. These agreements stipulate inter alia the minimum rate of pay a writer or translator is to receive for the publication of one of his or her works.