SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Hundreds of interpreters are going on strike in protest against government plans to cut costs by opening up the sector to less qualified competitors.
Around 1,500 interpreters are suspending all work for the courts, police and immigration service. The action will affect large numbers of cases because people who appear before the courts or deal with the IND have a legal right to follow proceedings in a language they understand.
The strike is in response to justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus’s proposals to outsource the hiring of interpreters and allow unqualified translators and agencies to bid for work.
Ani Getcheva, spokeswoman for the action group for registered interpreters and translators, told AD the plan would compromise the quality of the service.
‘The fact that you speak a language doesn’t automatically mean you can interpret in it. Opening up the register will bring in [unqualified] people for the same rates. We are worried that highly qualified people will then walk away.’
Getcheva said that around 2,000 people had signed a resolution urging the government to take action, while around 1,500 of the 2,600 registered interpreters were committed to joining the strike, which will last as long as necessary.
‘That number is growing by the hour,’ she said. ‘We work for the courts, the police and the IND. That means that all courts in the Netherlands are going to have trouble finding interpreters.
‘Police interviews with foreign-language suspects won’t be able to take place either, and neither will interviews with the IND. We think the schedule for the entire system will grind to a halt.’