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Coronavirus: Freelance EU interpreters left out of work, call on institutions for emergency support

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Coronavirus: Freelance EU interpreters left out of work, call on institutions for emergency support
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Freelance Interpreters at EU institutions are calling on the body to provide emergency support to those colleagues left out of work as a result of coronavirus.

On Wednesday they made a symbolic protest in front of the Commission building asking the EU 'practise what they preach' in terms of solidarity.

Since March, around 1,200 freelance interpreters have been left out of work 'from one day to the next'.

"We've been abandoned and it's really ironic considering how much we go into meetings and speak to everyone in many different languages about solidarity, and now we can't benefit from any of this solidarity," one of the protesters told Euronews.

The coronavirus pandemic has drastically reduced the number of face-to-face meetings which are usually simultaneously interpreted in multiple languages. This has led to a dramatic drop in work for freelancers who verbally translate speeches for politicians and civil servants.

The snag is that being employed within the EU institutions, the freelance interpreters are not eligible for national unemployment schemes in Belgium.

Maria, one of those present at the protest, has been working as a freelancer for the institutions since 2018.

"For the next three months I have no foreseeable income. We are all getting more stressed out because we are not sure about what will happen in the future," she says.

The EU institutions' staffing unit offered a flat payment of approximately 1,400 euros, for up to three days worked between mid-March and end of December.

The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), which represents the freelancers accredited to work for the institutions say that the EU's offer for compensation is inadequate.

The AIIC said that no collective negotiation was accepted by them, and that the EU was only dealing with freelance interpreters on a one-to-one basis.

Euronews asked the EU Commission for a comment, but has not yet received a reply.