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Jobs agency slammed over 'cheap' interpreters

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Jobs agency slammed over 'cheap' interpreters
11:54 CET+01:00
When the Swedish National Employment Office (Arbetsförmedlingen) recently contracted an interpreting agency it chose one with prices significantly below the market prices, according to a new report from Sveriges Radio (SR).

”It is up to each individual supplier to name their price. Those who want to get into the market may choose, for marketing purposes, to place their price very low, and that is very hard for us to question,” said head of economy at the agency Karin Leth to SR.

The agency recently took over some of the Migration Board's (Migrationsverket) duties for asylum seekers who had just arrived in Sweden. It is therefore imperative that they have access to interpreters over the phone, according to SR.

The interpreting service provider Semantix, owned by private-equity company Litorina, recently won the public procurement after offering their interpreters' services for 59 kronor ($8.50) for the first 30 minutes, a price significantly lower than the competing companies, which offered prices of 210 and 200 kronor, respectively.

Eva Entrena is an autorized medical interpreter in Spanish, who has been working in the trade for 30 years and is currently also involved in training future interpreters.

She is outraged that the agency chose a service offering interpreters for such a low price.

"To me it is completely preposterous that you can get an experienced and trained interpreter for 59 kronor per half hour. I would never accept such an offer," she said to SR.

Within the Swedish legal profession, interpreter fees are based on education and experience, reports SR.

In 2011 the lowest level of remuneration for a interpreter with basic training was 300 kronor per hour, while an authorized interpreter with specialist knowledge received 500 kronor per hour when working for a Swedish court.

At the police, prosecutor's office and the Swedish Enforcement Agency (Kronofogden), the tariff is somewhat lower.

According to SR, there were a handful interpreting agencies that entered the tender last spring. Only three of those were seen to fill the employment agency's demands. However, all three were deemed equal in the quality of their service.

Even if Semantix' price for the following 15 minutes was higher than that of the competition, they received significantly more points for their price put together and they subsequently won the tender.

At the Employment Agency they wish that it was possible to look more to quality and less to price when evaluating procurement bids.

Leth thinks that the high number of appeals in public procurements are unfortunate and that they make officials wary of making quality demands.

”The demands get very narrow and the price often become the deciding factor and I personally find that unfortunate,” she told SR.

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