The Swedish Writers’ Union is advising translators in Sweden against entering into agreements with all publishing companies within the Bonnier Publishing Group, Sweden’s largest publisher. Eleven companies have been declared non grata by the Union.

This comes after the Bonnier Group introduced a new Draft Contract earlier this year, which is to be used by all its subsidiaries and which includes many changes for the worse for translators. Among other things, the Writers’ Union criticises the contract for being one-sided for depriving translators of the right to oversee and approve all changes (i.e. denying them “the last word”); for being unreasonably long, 30 years; and for reducing the total remuneration to translators by only paying a lump sum for all existing and future formats – paperback, audio, e-books, print-on-demand, etc – instead of paying for each new use, which was the standard previously and which still is the standard in the rest of the industry in Sweden.

Bonnier Publishing House

The new Bonnier contract was introduced after the negotiations between the Swedish Publishers’ Association and the Writers’ Union broke down earlier this year and the so-called Standard or Model Contract between the parties was subsequently terminated. The negotiations about a revision of the Model Contract had been going on for a little over a year. The Model Contract had been in use since 2012, when it replaced an earlier agreement from 2004. Before then there was no joint translation agreement between the Writers’ Union and the Publishers. The 2012 Model Contract continues to be used by most other Swedish publishers outside of the Bonnier Publishing Group.

The legal officers of the Writer’s Union analysed the new Bonnier contract. The union has recommended its members to ask for several amendments in their individual negotiations, but to no avail. Renowned and established translators who have been offered work under the new contract have refused to sign new deals with the Bonnier publishers, something that has also been reported in the Swedish trade paper – Svensk Bokhandel.

As a result, Gunnar Ardelius, president of The Swedish Writers’ Union, and Peter Samuelsson, chair of its Translators’ Section, made the following joint press communiqué: ”The Writers’ Union finds the new translators’ contract that the Bonnier Publishing Group has unilaterally presented is regrettable. The conditions of the contract are unfair and we recommend all translators not to sign such contracts.” The boycott has made the news in daily newspapers, television and radio, and the press release has been much quoted in social media.

The statement and the Unions’ action has gained strong support from the Chair of the Norwegian Association of Literary Translators, Ika Kaminka, in an official letter; from the Swedish Association of Professional Translators, Sweden’s largest organisation for technical and specialised translators and translation companies; and from the Writers’ Guild of Sweden, which organises scriptwriters, playwrights and translators in the field of film, television, the stage, radio, gaming and other media.

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