Norwegian Translation

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The 2006 strike of Norwegian translators
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Waves of strikes across Europe are becoming a sign of the times. Workers in many professions go on strike. Professional translators do not stand aside either, despite the fact that their profession is marked by individualism and isolation.

In 2006, Norwegian translators went on strike to push for better working conditions. From 1972 they had a standard contract with the publishers’ association. The contract envisaged actually a unified translator fee pegged not to the wage index, but to the consumer price index. The latter was distorted by imports from developing countries. As a result, the translator fee decreased every year.

Thus, to earn an average salary, Norwegian translators had to translate 1,056 pages per year in 1991, while in 2006 the number of pages increased to 1,723. After many years of fruitless negotiations with the publishers' association to raise the fee, the translators went on strike. To make this point clear, they didn’t stop working; they worked according to the outdated contract of 1972.

According to that contract, translators were obliged to submit typewritten manuscripts to the publisher. So this is what they did. They sat behind tables equipped with old-style typewriters in the square between the major publishing houses in Oslo. They typed their translations, bound translation manuscripts and sent the manuscripts to the publisher for scanning, printing and editing.

The strike went on for several months. The translators conducted a number of funny and creative protest actions. The strike received much attention in the press and media. Although it was perceived as witty and good-humored, some serious and important things were obtained in the end, including a new standard contract with the fee pegged to the wage price index, better remuneration for republishing, and copyright for electronic publication.


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