Hearing Health Problems for our Interpreters

Special Report, Working conditions
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UNION SYNDICALE ASKS THE COMMISSION TO INTERVENE

Brussels, 3 October 2022

Interpreters from the European Commission, the European Parliament and freelance met in General Meeting on 16 September 2022.  The aim of this assembly is to draw up a resolution addressed to the President of the Commission calling for a solution to the growing problem of the use of so-called ‘interpretation platforms’.

For two years, as a result of Covid, interpreters have been working in part in remote interpretation mode using digital tools that are far from up to date with current technology.  The quality of sound that is neither reliable nor stable during meetings on platforms does not allow interpreters to work without exposing themselves to  dangerously bad sound.  Often, it can only be made intelligible by turning the volume up too high which makes the problems even worse.  The lack of discipline on the part of the users of these platforms, inadequate quality equipment or connection from inappropriate locations, are exacerbating the problem…

For all these reasons, the interpreters of the European Parliament have been on a partial strike since June 2022.

On the Commission side, the lack of preventive measures has already had an impact on the health of a number of interpreters, as some of them have suffered from significant damage to their hearing, health and physical and psychological disorders.

Others are left in limbo because they observe problems with their hearing but receive no individual follow-up.

At institutional level, the profession did not benefit from preventive enforcement measures necessary for a change of this nature which can only get worse as the use of these platforms becomes more widespread.

Finally, these accidents at work were not monitored by occupational physicians during the pandemic.

The situation of interpreters is symptomatic of the poor state of occupational safety and health, while individuals are supposedly at the centre of the DG HR strategy.

The employer is responsible for health and safety at work.  He must now urgently remedy its shortcomings.

Union Syndicale calls on the Commission to intervene immediately by putting in place all the means to carry out individual and institutional actions to protect the health of our colleagues interpreters and platform users.  These should include rigorous enforcement of proper microphone discipline by users and a limit on exposure commensurate to the precautionary principle.  There is no long term experience of the use of these platforms which were cobbled together during the pandemic.

 In this capacity, Union Syndicale, concerned with the well-being of staff and the application of Article 1 §6 of the Staff Regulations, had already pointed out in October 2021 that the Medical Service is severely understaffed by the number of occupational doctors planned in Community legislation.

 

The Executive Committee

Union Syndicale Bruxelles

 

Consult the resolution on Auditory health and sound

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