Jobs agency slammed over ‘cheap’ interpreters

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).

Jobs agency slammed over 'cheap' interpreters

”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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Attack on migration minister at refugee home

UPDATED: Sweden's Minister for Justice and Migration, Morgan Johansson has been attacked with a fire extinguisher after visiting a housing project for refugees in southern Sweden, but is not thought to have been injured.

Attack on migration minister at refugee home
Sweden's Minister for Justice and Migration, Morgan Johansson. Photo: TT
Morgan Johansson was leaving the building when a man grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed foam over the minister, according to reports in regional newspaper Kristianstadsbladet.
According to the paper, the Social Democrat politician barely had time to react before a guard from Sweden's Security Service (Säpo) pulled the man to the ground.
The minister had spent the day visiting various locations around Kristianstad, a city in Skåne in southern Sweden.
The refugee accommodation he was attacked at is on the former site of Broby Hospital, a healthcare centre which closed down several years ago.

Sweden became the first European country in 2013 to grant automatic residency to Syrian refugees and has since seen asylum requests rise to record levels, which are still expected to reach about 90,000 in 2015.

Previously no more than 200 asylum seekers were permitted to stay in one centre. But under the new rules, the Migration Board can sign a basic contract for 350 places, including two supplementary agreements of 150 places each after the first ones have been filled.

According to the Swedish Migration Board's latest prognosis, 15,000 more asylum places will need to be created in the coming year.

Last week a survey by pollsters Ipsos commissioned by Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter suggested that more than 60 percent of Swedes believe that immigration is good for the country, but just ten percent agree that integration efforts are working well.

Morgan Johansson told local news network P4 Kristianstad that he had been "taken by surprise", but added that he had not been injured.

"But you shouldn't treat these things too lightly either. You can't just say 'move on', because of course it's serious," he said.

The attack on the politician took place as Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven reiterated his commitment to helping refugees, but called on other EU nations to share the burden.

"We need to provide security for the refugees who risk facing death just a few mile off the coast of Europe, and get more of the EU member states to take responsibility for refugee protection," he said in a speech at a school in Gothenburg.

"Germany and Sweden take the greatest responsibility. More countries need to help take care of refugees," he added.