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 Home > Event-related > European SF > ESF 2008 Malmö

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Post-ESF report: ANNEX on Accommodation

(Date: 3 November 2008)

Copies of the emails exchanged between Babels and the Nordic Organising Committee (NOC) of the Malmö ESF.


Monday 15 Sept. Babels Letter to the NOC

Dear friends,

The situation is desperate and you seem to have singularly failed in your promise to organize and provide solidarity accommodation for the ESF volunteers. Today, Monday 15th, we still do not know where more than 100 volunteers will sleep starting *tomorrow*. What are we supposed to tell people who have agreed to come to work for free for the forum and have nowhere to sleep? To sleep in the street?

The NOC had agreed on a budget for Babels several months ago. Babels has been very diligently seeking the cheapest ways of bringing nearly 500 interpreters to the ESF, to interpret into 18 different languages in over 200 seminars. While Babels has been making systematic efforts to keep costs well below the agreed budget, the Finance Group of the NOC has devised ridiculous schemes to save one cent here, one cent there, without looking for long-term solutions.

The result is that people are forced to sleep 10 in a room, sometimes on the floor, without mattresses or without covers, and many have to change accommodation (if they are lucky to have one) every two days. Interpreters require a calm space to prepare for their very demanding work during the forum. (Try interpreting for 30 minutes and you will understand why it is not possible to sleep in crowded places.)

If no LONG-TERM solution to the accommodation is found BY TOMORROW MORNING 9am, we will be obliged to tell volunteers who are coming
tomorrow morning and Wednesday to purchase a ticket to go back home, BECAUSE WE DO NOT KNOW WHERE THEY CAN SLEEP. This would be a considerable waste of resources for the ESF, and would make interpretation during the ESF impossible for 80% of the seminars. The NOC does not seem to have realized the extent of this problem, despite repeated warnings.

While the NOC seems to worry about details and to try to save money AT ANY COST, treating its employees and forum volunteers as slaves, ESF employees and unpaid volunteers working in Malmö are spending sleepless nights trying to find solutions to a problem caused by lack of leadership among the NOC.

If you do want interpretation at the ESF, we need you to keep your promises!

Another World Is Possible

In solidarity,
European Babels Coordination for Malmö 2008
Yan Brailowsky (France), Anna Simola (Finland), Barbora Molnarova (Czech Republic), María Brander de la Iglesia (Spain), Lina Filopoulou (Greece), Julie Boéri (United Kingdom), Irma Marcenaro (Italy), Grégoire Seither (France), Rodrigo Ginés (Finland), Pietro Mazzarol (Italy)


16 September. NOC response to Babels letter.

We are so sorry for the situation which has evolved. It is difficult for all of us. Now we have the choice to work together for the best solution, or work against each other.

The decision of giving all interpreters solidarity accomodation were taken by the coordination group when we thought that we were going to have 1000 solidarity accommodations. Half of them would be reserved for he 500 interpreters. Today we have a situation where we don’t have these numbers. This is the problem we have to solve.

The responsables of accommodation have been working very hard to find solutions to this situation. Their solution is not optimal, but it is the best we can do right now.

For the people coming the next couple of days we have 15 more beds in solidarity accomondations. Confirmed today! The scout accomondation 10 beds.
And 20 more beds in solidarity accomondations reported to the website today, but not yet confirmed.

For the other interpreters there is right now (Monday 11.10 PM) no other solutions than good mass accommodation. No tents or sports hall, but in small rooms with maximum 18 people.

We are doing everything we can for finding more accomondations. We have assigned more volonteers for calling and arranging solidarity accommodations and members from the board will try to come up with new
creative solutions.

In the meentime we ask Babels to

 work out a list of priorities. Who needs the best beds and the small rooms the most?
 ask all interpreteurs if they can accept mass accommodation
 work together with us and be open to all kinds of ideas and solutions that can help us in this situation.

So don´t tell people that they don’t have anywhere to sleep and that they have to go home, even though the facilities are not desired standard.

We are doing everything we can for working out a solution - we hope that you will work with us.

The board of NOC.


NOC letter after the NOC-Babels meeting

Proposal for agreement:

Before being responsible for the budget of Babels, the finance group want to see a budgetproposal for what changes you want to make. You will have information of what has been spent of your budget as soon as possible. But please try to make a suggestion in the meantime, ie how much of not used travel expenses can you use for accommodation.

Since we are finding solidarity accommodation every hour, we do wish to limit the amount which can be used for accommodation.

After this have been clarified with the finance group you will be responsible for booking accommodation as long as
 you use not more than the amount assigned from the finance group. If you exceed the budget, the board will not take the responsibilty or the economic consequences.
 you book minimum of over capacity (we cannot pay for empty rooms!) THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!
 you use solidarity accommodation first (we cannot pay for commercial bookings when we have people offering their homes for free)
 instead of using hostels/hotels in Copenhagen today use the facilities of Kvarnby FHSK as long as possible
 have continuous communication with the finance group
 No other people in the board or the office will then book rooms for Babels.

You should also try to
 ask everyone to accept good mass accommodation (please, please, please)
 make a priority list of those who needs good bed/small
 inform unregistered about the lacking of beds and the possibilities of mass accommodation

Please understand that the reason for what you feel is a lack of trust is based on the fact that we constantly get reports about overbooking of food, rooms etc etc. That cannot be how we handle our scare resources.

With hope of an proposal we all can agree upon and live with.



Response to the NOC proposal

  1. From the start, we must be clear: the budgetary responsibility lies in your lap. We have not been in full control of the interpretation budget, and therefore cannot be said to be responsible now, only two
    days before the forum, when expenses have increased ten-fold because of previous disastrous short-term decisions.
  2. You have not replied to any of our requests. Given the lack of dialogue, we do not wish to be imposed new conditions.
  3. You claim you want to remain in continuous communication with the finance group, but the finance group has repeatedly failed to remain in communication with Babels.
  4. We have already explained to Lina [NOC Board] the concrete measures we proposed to take to secure accommodation while limiting costs, but have received a proposal that corresponds to what has already been proposed to us.

You have wasted our time, we do not wish to continue with these fake negotiations, and your lack of leadership has made it impossible for us to begin planning the work for interpreters.

Either you accept our proposal as formulated to Lina today, or we will tell interpreters to go home IMMEDIATELY. We will also start informing seminar organizers that we have been forced to CANCEL INTERPRETATION due to your negligence. Seminar organizers will receive full communication of our correspondence on the issue of accommodation. You are responsible for this situation.

Our proposal:

  1. To be entrusted with an ESF credit card to book and pay for the necessary accommodation, ink cartridges, bus tickets, and telephone communications to arrange accommodation for the volunteers arriving today and tomorrow. A member of the finance group IN THE BOARD can monitor costs, but we will not accept ANY interference. The member of the finance group IN THE BOARD will tell us when we are reaching our budgetary limit.
  2. To be given full control of the budget allocated to Babels. To pay for accommodation, we will use the global Babels budget (accommodation and travel budget).
  3. We will continue to favour solidarity accommodation and any other free, or low-cost solution, within the standards exposed in our previous exchanges. If a house or school does not have mattresses and bedsheets,
    we will not send interpreters. Solutions must be ready-made, we cannot waste more time to hunt for mattresses.

You have 30 minutes to reply. That is generous, since we have been waiting for a realistic and honest response from you since last night and every hour waiting for your reaction means interpreters are waiting
in our offices with no guaranteed and decent accommodation.

In case this proposal was not clear, we expect from you either YES or NO. You have left us no other option.

Please remember: Another World Is Possible

Babels coordination team

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