One of North America’s biggest unions has approached Ontario’s court interpreters, as a confrontation between the province and Ottawa-area freelancers gathers steam.
“We have offered to advocate on their behalf and hopefully demonstrate to them the advantages of joining our union,” says David Bosveld, organizing director of the Canadian branch of the Communications Workers of America. The CWA represents more than 700,000 people, working for heavyweights such as NBC, ABC and The Wall Street Journal, as well as AT&T and US Airways (it is also the parent of the Ottawa Newspaper Guild, which represents some workers at the Citizen).
Tensions between the province and freelance interpreters have been building over the past year, as the contractors push for a raise from the set rate of $25 an hour -a rate they say has not changed significantly in 15 years. Last month, a loosely organized group of Ottawa-area freelancers pledged to stop accepting new assignments for less than $35 an hour.
So far, individual interpreters are just considering their options, and have not made any decisions as a group about how best to approach the conflict over wages, says Stella Rahman, past president of the Court Interpreters Association of Ontario. But the union offer “is worth exploring,” she adds.