LanguageLoop – Frequently Asked Questions

Why is LanguageLoop changing arrangements for translators and interpreters?
The Victorian Government owns LanguageLoop and has the power to make changes to the business. Following claims made by TIA on behalf of members and subsequent to its own extensive consultation and enquiry, the Victorian Government has identified that contracting arrangements are not consistent with Government policies around secure work and has therefore, directed this transition. As a government owned entity, LanguageLoop is subject to public sector regulations and policies including provisions around your rights and entitlements.

What does “secure work” mean?
Secure work generally means engaging you as an employee. Employment provides stability and protections with rights and entitlements, such as consistent pay rates, leave entitlements and penalty rates to name a few. Translators and interpreters have been consistently denied even the most basic entitlements for many years, even decades, particularly, as a result of contract work. Entitlements are stipulated in the National Employment Standards (NES).

What are the National Employment Standards (NES)?
The National Employment Standards are the 11 minimum employment entitlements that must be provided to all employees. https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/national-employment-standards. The solution to the poor remuneration and conditions for translators and interpreters can be found in employment law. A way of negotiating better legal entitlements for employees is in an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA).

What’s an EBA?
An Enterprise Bargaining Agreement is a two-way “agreement” that gives employers and employees the freedom to bargain for better wages, greater flexibility and working conditions to suit their individual needs above and beyond a Modern Award or the National Employment Standards (NES).

To date, translators and interpreters working via Language Service Providers (LSPs) have been provided with a unilateral (one-way) agreement on a “take it or leave it” basis. and have not been able to bargain for better working conditions.

An EBA will allow translators and interpreters an opportunity to set out the working conditions they require from the LSPs.

An EBA has a limited duration of up to 4 years which means you can negotiate further improvements at every renewal.

What’s the difference between a contractor and an employee?
Put simply, a contractor is someone who runs their own business and is contracted by another business to provide services to that other business’ clients. They do not get paid a salary or wage, and instead get paid per service they complete.

A contractor takes commercial risks, which means that you, the worker, is legally responsible for your work and liable for the cost of rectifying any defect in your work.

LSPs that engage you as a contractor are essentially hiring you as an independent business and therefore are not obliged to offer you any entitlements.

An employee is someone who works for someone else (the employer) and gets paid a salary or wage as well as further entitlements that your union can enforce. Employees are not subject to commercial risk. The business that employs you takes on that risk.

An employee has more legislated entitlements that your union can enforce. Employees are not subject to commercial risk. The business that employs you takes on that risk.

Will I have the option of continuing as a contractor?
If LanguageLoop offers you the option to contract your services, then they and you must fulfill the necessary legal and tax requirements to work as a legitimate contractor.

If this applies to you, then you can contact TIA for more advice.

It is important to note that an ABN alone does not make you a contractor. Companies that contract you on the basis of an ABN, when they in fact treat you as an employee, that is, you have no say on your terms of engagement and no tangible entitlements, may be found to be ‘sham contracting’.

If I have the option of continuing as a contractor, will I be covered by the EBA?
No, you cannot be covered by an EBA as a contractor, and you won’t have the entitlements and protections that it provides.

If I have the option of continuing as a contractor, can I negotiate my fees?
A contractor in any field would generally negotiate their terms of trade with the agency – things like quoting fees that cover your skills, experience, expenses such as travel and the like.

In the TI world however, the terms are set by the LSP with little, if any, opportunity for a contractor to negotiate.

Will I be paid less as an employee?
The aim of an EBA is to secure better pay and ongoing reviews with regular increases.

Currently there is no single industrial instrument that legally sets minimum pay and entitlements for T& I. As a result, LSP rates of pay appear to meet only the bare minimum wage. Where awards or agreements exist, pay and conditions, while not fully reflective of qualifications, credentials, skills, experience and responsibility, offer better terms than most LSPs.

Currently there are LSPs such as On Call and All Graduates that already engage you as casual employees. The rates paid are the same or similar to those paid to contractors at LanguageLoop. While LSPs don’t define a base salary upon which their rates are based, it is safe to say, on calculation, that the baseline is akin to a minimum wage with casual loading of 25% applied.

Currently, at LanguageLoop, the rates of pay offered to contractors are no higher than the rates offered to casual employees working for other LSPs.

What comes first - employment or EBA?
Employment comes first. The transition from contracting to employment will be undertaken by LanguageLoop. TIA’s consultations with you and planning will, however, commence immediately.

What’s the union’s role in terms of an EBA?
Your union is a party to an EBA. This means you have a say via your union on your terms of employment. Your union negotiates the agreement with the employer aiming to achieve the best possible outcomes for you. And once you have an EBA – you will have recourse through your union at all times if you find that you have not been treated appropriately.

As a LanguageLoop employee, will I be prohibited from working for other LSPs?
Not necessarily. Sometimes contracting arrangements can also limit your work with other providers. These matters are not legislated and are usually contractual or policy based. An enterprise agreement could protect a right to work with other providers.

We recently received a new schedule of rates from LanguageLoop. Are these the rates we should expect under an EBA?
Not necessarily. The recent rates advice you received from LanguageLoop are changes under their current model. They will not necessarily apply under an EBA. This is a first time EBA, and members will be able to participate and tell us what they want in terms of rates, entitlements, and conditions.

Will I still need an ABN under the new arrangements?
No. Employees do not require an ABN.

What types of entitlements can I expect?
All sorts of things can be considered – eg. pay rates, regular increases over time, travel, penalty rates, allowances, leave entitlements, time off for PD, disciplinary/complaints processes (where you get to respond to any allegations) and more.

Through TIA you can contribute to your log of claims that will be tabled as part of the EBA negotiations.

What’s a log of claims?
Think of it like a shopping list or set of demands for what you want to achieve as a workforce. TIA will assist you in working out what are reasonable claims. The log of claims is the starting point of the negotiation. Can anyone contribute to the log of claims? Only union members can contribute to TIA’s log of claims in the EBA negotiations.

When will the EBA be finalised?
It’s hard to say. We’ve a lot of work to do to prepare and we are starting almost immediately. At this stage we expect to be well underway and heading to completion in 2022.

Will an award apply and if so, which one?
Currently, the Government’s own report indicates that the Health Professionals and Support Services award is the most applicable. An award acts as a safety net and prescribes minimum terms. An EBA must provide better terms on an overall basis than those stipulated in an award.

Once LanguageLoop has an EBA will other LSPs also enter into an EBA?
Because employment and an EBA gives you a say in your working conditions, a strong membership can work towards achieving the same outcome with other providers.

Do you think this model will be extended to other states and territories in the future?
It is certainly a solution that TIA supports. A strong membership in those states and territories will drive the direction that TIA takes in this respect.

Will the transition to casual employment result in the fairer work distribution or we will still have to compete for assignments with other interpreters?
TIA can seek to negotiate the practices that influence the distribution of work.

Do I have to be a union member, or can I represent myself in negotiations?
By law, TIA is a bargaining representative on behalf of its members. We can only represent the interests of members in this process. Technically, you can represent yourself, but this is a complex legal process so you would want to have a good understanding of bargaining and the legal framework around it. More importantly though, negotiating collectively makes for a stronger case and better outcomes. Negotiating as individual contractors didn’t improve your conditions at Language Loop – but working together as employees and as part of your Union will.

Where can I get more information?
This and more information will be made available on our member portal.

More LanguageLoop workforce meetings will be arranged over coming months and those that can be recorded will also be accessible on the member portal.

All enquiries are also welcome by email tia@professionalsaustralia.org.au

What’s next?
Next week, we will send you a survey to complete which will assist us in preparing our priority areas for negotiation with Language Loop.

To get the best possible outcome for your pay and conditions in the upcoming negotiations with LanguageLoop, TIA needs to provide a strong united voice. If you are not already a member and want your interests represented in this process, join TIA here.

There’s a lot happening as we transition to employment at LanguageLoop – we’ll keep TIA members posted with regular updates. All enquiries are welcome by email tia@professionalsaustralia.org.au