Below is a letter by a translator to NAATI. She contacted NAATI three times in the past year, and she still hasn't received any reply. What do you suggest for her to do next?
I am writing to express my serious concerns with the operation of the ‘Professional Translation Services’ market in Australia and to suggest possible ways those concerns might be addressed.
Over recent months I have become aware that some translation service providers appear to consider translation services as a ‘commodity’ item that can be tendered for at drastically discounted prices.
One typical example is a recent tender for a Commonwealth Government Department. In this instance, the successful tenderer submitted its bid that provided for:
1. NAATI-accredited translating,
2. Final document layout (in InDesign format) and
3. NAATI-accredited, independent checking
at a rate of $0.17 per word for performing the three listed tasks together.
I note that when I obtained my NAATI accreditation 13 years ago, the industry recommended rate for translation was $0.25 per word (for carrying out the first task alone).
Obviously, the question must arise as to how the tenderer can satisfy the terms of the contract without:
- Under-paying the NAATI-accredited translators and checkers involved with the project or paying them an unfair fee
- Under-delivering the committed services and/or
- Using non-NAATI-accredited translators and checkers
While there may be business reason why this successful tenderer might submit a price that is substantially below what might be considered to be ‘standard’, I feel that this situation exhibits a phenomenon that appears to occur far too regularly.
NAATI has members from Commonwealth, State and Territory governments on its board and is the only national accreditation authority in Australia. It aims to:
- Set, maintain and promote high national standards in translating and interpreting, and
- Implement a national quality-assurance system for credentialing practitioners who meet those standards.
As a possible solution for this problem, I suggest that NAATI recommends a benchmark salary for translators and interpreters for use by Commonwealth Government departments. NAATI could advise Commonwealth Government department procurement officers of that benchmark industry rate and suggest how they might ensure that NAATI-accredited translators are not paid below that rate.
I have not been able to find any Commonwealth Government recommended translation rate. However, the South Australian Government Wages Parity (Salaried) Enterprise Agreement 2010 states:
- Civil servants who are NAATI-accredited translators and undertake translation for the government are to be paid $0.28 per word for documents more than 100 words
- A rate of $0.13 per word for independent checking
- Typesetting is to be paid at $23.90 per hour (not sure if the skill of InDesign is required)
I look forward to NAATI taking the leadership to ensure translators are paid fairly and treated appropriately by government translation service buyers.
(The letter is adapted slightly for confidential reasons.)