Lionbridge: globalizing low wages

In December 2007, a trade-union called “Krajowa Federacja Pracownikow (KFP)” (Worker’s Federation) was formed in Lionbridge Poland, a subsidiary of Lionbridge Technologies, a US-based multinational with subsidiaries all over the world.

Lionbridge specializes in translations and adapting products to local markets (so called “globalization services”). Lionbridge is one of many US-based companies which move jobs from the US to countries with lower wages and working standards. Among the countries where workplaces are most often moved to are China, India, but also places like Poland, Romania, etc… Polish workers of the services and IT sector have had a very poor record of unionization during the recent years of capitalist transformation. The union effort undertaken by KFP is in a large part a step into uncharted territories.

Lionbridge currently employs 300 workers in Poland and plans to increase employment at a high rate. The company has publicly stated that it expects the Polish state to provide tax incentives in order to increase the profitability of the business in Poland. In 2007, the revenues of the company reached 8 million USD.

In 2003., Lionbridge acquired Mentorix, another US-based company which employed 700 workers. Since then, the number of workers has been increased to over a thousand workers. One of the clauses of the acquisition contract stipulated that “Mentorix is not and has never been a party to or bound by any union contract, collective bargaining agreement or similar contract. There has never been any lockout, strike, slowdown, work stoppage, labor dispute or union organizing activity, or any similar activity or dispute, affecting Mentorix or any of their employees. None of the employees of Mentorix are "workmen" as defined in Section 2(s) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, of India and no notice or other consultation with any trade union in India is required as to any employee of Mentorix in India as a result of the Merger and the other transactions contemplated hereby.”

The Indian Industrial Disputes Act doesn’t provide any protection and any trade-union rights to workers who are defined as “non-workmen”. These may include workers whose duties may include coordination or elements of management, as in the case of Project Managers. The “management” authority of Project Managers is not really different from that of any other worker, but the employers can claim that this kind of workers are not entitled to protection of their labor rights. In 2004, the Indian Supreme Court has held that an Industrial Tribunal cannot adjudicate on the service conditions of employees who are "non-workmen" under the Industrial Disputes Act.

The company’s globalization practices influence not only workers employed in the company, but also the working conditions of freelancers, such as translators. Lionbridge has gained power on the market due to mergers and acquisitions. In 2006, the company has been awarded the 2.5 million USD contract for legal interpretation by the Court Service in Ireland. According to the Irish Translators' & Interpreters' Association, the rates for interpretation have fallen dramatically. As Mary Phelan of ITIA writes, “The Courts Service pays Lionbridge €46 per hour. In turn, Lionbridge pays either €25 or €20 or €17.50 to the interpreters. We have even heard reports of €15 per hour. The rates vary depending on when the interpreters were recruited – those recruited more recently are paid less. The reduction in pay is an alarming development. Interpreters used to complain that the hourly rate never increased despite inflation. But they never expected reductions like these. The ITIA believes that Lionbridge favours the more recently recruited interpreters for interpreting assignments because they cost less.”

Posted By

Anonymous
Feb 5 2008 20:52

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zaczek
Feb 12 2008 18:46

A trade union organizer in Lionbridge Poland was illegally fired today, under the pretence of disclosing supposedly "confidential" information. The company claims that he wrote the above Libcom article. The "secret" information is available here: http://www.independent.ie/national-news/courts-body-to-fork-out-euro2m-on-interpreters-as-demand-rises-892873.html
and here: http://translatorsassociation.ie/component/option,com_docman/task,doc_download/gid,36/Itemid,16/

Lionbridge Poland blatantly broke the labor code by firing a protected trade union official. Lionbridge thus joins other multinational companies showing contempt for labor laws of the countries they operate in.

This case will be continued in court and create more adverse publicity that apparently the company is so scared of.

Steven.
Mar 2 2008 19:12

That's appalling - good luck in the legal battle - also it's worth using a pseudonym when writing articles that could get you into trouble.

zaczek
Mar 12 2008 13:25

A solidarity campaign has been started, involving FAU: http://www.fau.org/artikel/art_080305-233345
and Priama Akcia in Slovakia: http://www.csaf.cz/spravy.php?sprava=1139 and http://www.priamaakcia.sk/?action=view_article&id=387
More to come in the future.

daniel dreveny
Mar 29 2008 18:15

Priama akcia in Lionbridge, Žilina, Slovakia

As Priama akcia and other Sections of IWA-AIT informed in December 2007 a new grass-roots union was founded in the company Lionbridge, in its Warsaw branch in Poland. On 12th February, Jakub G. - member of the union - was dismissed. The dismissal came shortly after the announcement of union founding. Our Polish comrades from the ZSP call for solidarity actions for Jakub.

On 5th March 2008 during our More Than a Union speech tour we visited Slovak Lionbridge branch in Žilina, which has the same manager as the Polish one.

We entered the building with the Secretary of International Workers Association on Wednesday afternoon and discussed the issue with employees.

We spread leaflets about the situation of our friend Jakub and generally about practices of the company management. Another member of Priama akcia put some leaflets behind the windscreen-wipers of the nearby parked cars.

Meanwhile, Secretary of IWA had a meeting with a person from the management and told that IWA knows about the case and will follow it.

Employees of Lionbridge didn't know about Jakub and his dismissal but the team leader did. He expressed his opinion: according to him, Jakub shouldn´t have found a union, if he was not satisfied with the working conditions in Lionbridge – he rather should have found him a new job.

Person from the management was really shocked because of the visit of the Secretary of IWA from Serbia:) and said that he would inform his boss about it.

The aim of this action was to inform workers about the situation in Poland and to put pressure on the management – to tell them that we know about their practices against our comrade. We were also glad to express our solidarity with Jakub by this form of action.

Apart from the action we have started a money collection for Jakub, which is still in process.

Priama akcia - IWA Slovakia
http://priamaakcia.sk/?action=view_article&id=406

MT
Apr 16 2008 21:47

Interview with fired union organiser from the Lionbridge corporation, Poland

As Priama akcia informed in December 2007 a nonhierarchical union was founded in Lionbridge Technologies in Warsaw, Poland. On 12th February, Jakub G. - member of the union - was sacked. The dismissal came shortly after the official announcement of existence of the union in the company. Jakub told us more about the case in the following interview.

See: http://www.priamaakcia.sk/?action=view_article&id=413

slaves of LIOX
Aug 31 2009 07:13

In many ways the Lionbridge is a very problematic company.

- They ruthlessly use temporary workforce, but then they don't even follow the letter of the temporary agreement. There are numerous examples of this.

- The salary level is unusually low for that business area.

- The LIOX has a very Orwellian corporate culture, they actually make workers to spy on each other. (At the same time their skills in actual project management seem to be disastrously bad...)

In many ways we can only hope that LIOX will crash completely and some other company will take its place. It is in many ways a temp-labor exploiting sweatshop and an Orwellian place to work in.

Workers: avoid Lionbridge if possible!