On the evening of 6 September 2023, Carolina Cannard, with the support of NZSTI, hosted a virtual Q&A session addressing the pressing issue of fair pay for interpreters in Aotearoa New Zealand. The session focused on Carolina's fair pay petition and collection of interpreter testimonies, with valuable insights provided by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) representatives Ciska den Haring and Alison McDonald.
Key Points Discussed:
1. MBIE Research on Interpreter Working Conditions:
Ciska den Haring (Senior Advisor for Refugee and Migrant Support at MBIE) explained that she is in charge of researching and assessing current interpreters’ pay inequities and working conditions in Aotearoa New Zealand. Her aim is to use the anonymous testimonies collected by Carolina as evidence to create an official MBIE research paper on the state of interpreters’ remuneration in New Zealand and propose some options to improve better pay and working conditions for interpreters nationwide. Some of the options moving forward include the establishment of minimum standards and suggested rates.
2. Collaboration with Carolina Cannard:
MBIE confirmed that their involvement in examining interpreter pay rates began as a result of Carolina Cannard's advocacy work. Representatives also confirmed that they consider interpreters’ testimonies as key evidence to allow a better understanding of the interpreting industry’s dynamics. MBIE, NZSTI and Carolina are now working closely with together to address this crucial issue.
3. Data Collection and Confidentiality:
Carolina shared that she consulted with four legal experts who all affirmed the legality and safety of the data collection process as long as anonymity is respected. Carolina’s lawyers confirmed that information sharing is safe for all interpreters as long as all the information is anonymised. Carolina will process each testimony to make sure these conditions are respected before all testimonies are sent to MBIE. It is safe for interpreters to share their invoices, pay rates and working conditions as long as all identifying information is removed.
4. Scope of Fair Pay Petition:
The fair pay petition is open to interpreters working exclusively in Aotearoa New Zealand, regardless of their field, setting, or topic of interpretation, either face-to-face or remotely. Attendees were reminded that there is still time to submit information and testimonials until 14 September 2023.
5. Pay Scales in LSP Selection:
MBIE could not provide definitive information regarding whether interpreter pay scales would influence the Language Service Provider (LSP) selection process, as the tender is still open for consideration.
6. Future Contact with MBIE:
While it's unclear how interpreters will be able to contact MBIE in the future if their LSPs do not adhere to the terms set by MBIE, both MBIE representatives expressed a willingness to maintain close collaboration with NZSTI and the interpreting community in general.
7. NAATI Accreditation:
MBIE emphasised that their expectation is that only NAATI accredited interpreters will be permitted to work as public service interpreters as of July 2024. Alison McDonald confirmed that MBIE is planning to implement mechanisms to ensure compliance with this requirement.
8. How to contribute to this cause:
If you are a New-Zealand based interpreter, you can submit your testimony to Carolina and MBIE. You can include information about your current rates, invoices, working conditions, cancellation policies, minimum booking times as well as any previous, more favourable working arrangements for comparison purposes.
This Zoom discussion and Q&A session served as a significant step in addressing the issue of fair pay for interpreters in New Zealand. MBIE’s involvement suggests a commitment to achieving equitable pay and working conditions for all interpreters in the country. Similarly, NZSTI’s continuous support of Carolina’s work, their commitment to improving industry standards and their liaising with government bodies in the name of the interpreting community has been decisive in the advancement of the issue. This topic will continue to be discussed during the 2023 NZSTI Conference in Christchurch, offering further opportunities for dialogue and progress.
Written by Agustina Marianacci