Translation Bureau failed its interpreters, ordered by Labour Program to take immediate corrective action

Ottawa – February 3, 2023 - The Labour Program ordered the Translation Bureau to take immediate action following its failure to protect the health and safety of its interpreters during online and hybrid meetings. The orders were released on February 1, 2023, almost exactly a year after the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE) filed a formal complaint on behalf of federal interpreters, whom it represents.

As such, the Labour Program:

  • finds that the Translation Bureau’s workplace is in contravention of Part II of the Canada Labour Code;
  • finds that the Translation Bureau failed to ensure the health and safety protection of its employees by failing to ensure that, during meetings with simultaneous interpretations, interpretation work is done only when virtual participants are wearing ISO-compliant microphones;
  • orders the Translation Bureau to cease all violations by February 6, 2023; and
  • directs the Translation Bureau to take such action as it specifies to prevent the continuation of the contravention or its recurrence, on or before February 6, 2023.

The orders can be downloaded: (These were provided to CAPE in French only)

The orders come after nearly three years of CAPE’s relentless appeals to the Translation Bureau for the urgent adoption of measures to remove all known health and safety risks to which its members, federal interpreters, were exposed on a daily basis.

“This finally gives our members some form of justice and greater protection after a very long painful fight,” said CAPE President Greg Phillips. “Our members’ health and safety in the workplace is paramount, we are pleased with the Labour Program’s order and look forward to seeing the changes it promises.”

The lack of proper technical infrastructure and of meeting participants’ compliance with technical guidelines during online and hybrid meetings caused many interpreters to be injured on the job, experiencing mild to severe acoustic shock, ear pain, headaches and tinnitus. A record number of incidents have been reported on a regular basis since March 2020.

In the fall of 2022, a freelance interpreter was sent to the hospital following an injury sustained in the same meeting rooms and using the same equipment as the federal interpreters CAPE represents.

CAPE will continue to monitor the situation to ensure the Translation Bureau fully complies in a timely manner with the Labour Program’s orders.

For more information and a timeline of events please see the CAPE website.

About the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE)

CAPE represents over 23,000 federal public sector employees across Canada and is the third-largest federal public sector union in the country. CAPE represents economists, policy analysts, researchers in the Library of Parliament, analysts in the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, statisticians, translators, interpreters, and terminologists.

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Katia Theriault
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