METM18 presentation 

Text workers of the world unite: why translators and editors should unionise

Kate Sotejeff-Wilson, Jyväskylä, Finland
Ian Mac Eochagáin, Helsinki, Finland

Many MET members are involved in other professional associations, but how many have joined a union? An active trade union can do a lot for you, the text workers (authors, translators and editors), making sure you get credit where credit is due in ways that an association cannot, for example advocating for changes in government policy.

Finland is unusual in having its own union for translators and editors, KAJ Translation Industry Professionals. In a highly unionised country, KAJ is part of an umbrella union for professionals with higher education and campaigns effectively for freelancer rights. The presenters are active in shaping KAJ policy.

We will show how the union supports members and the industry, making sure that text workers get the recognition they deserve, advocating for and educating about fair pay and rights. In the past few years KAJ has helped negotiate a collective bargaining agreement for audiovisual translators, opposed changes to unemployment benefit, consulted with higher education policy-makers on the shift in translator education from bachelor’s to master’s level, and extended its training and support for independent entrepreneurs and freelancers.

Drawing on this combination of advocacy and education, the presenters will illustrate how unionised members get credit where it is due, discuss how this works in practice, and consider what can be applied to other contexts. This will be of interest to text workers who see the benefits of collaboration to gain recognition but are unsure about how a trade union can really help. It can inspire you to organise collectively, and maybe unionise.

About the presenters

Two Finns from Ireland and Wales, both active NEaT members. Ian Mac Eochagáin is the vice-chair of the KAJ board and Kate Sotejeff-Wilson is on the KAJ education and training committee. Kate enjoys “midwifing” people’s texts into being. She has been translating and editing non-native English writing for academics for nearly two decades, starting during her history PhD research in London, Warsaw and Berlin. Ian is an editor and translator from Finnish and Russian, formerly a media analyst and English teacher in Finland and Russia. He is a graduate of European Studies from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.