21 October 2011
Union fighting local firm’s interpreter deal
A Union is campaigning to stop a Government deal with a Delph firm, calling it “the privatisation of legal interpreting services”.
Earlier this year Applied Language Solutions (ALS) was awarded a government contract to provide translation services for the police and courts. But Unite, which includes the National Union of Professional Interpreters and Translators (NUPIT), yesterday launched the Speak Up, Speak Out campaign at the House of Commons to call for it to be reconsidered.
Regional officer Andrew Murray said: “We fear that this is the classic cocktail of privatisation — an inferior service for vulnerable people seeking legal redress who don’t have the necessary skills in English; and a lessening of the terms and conditions for the interpreting workforce.
“We are concerned that when this agency takes over, some people will be given a second-class service because this agency will not be able to provide enough interpreters of the required level of linguistic skill and competence.
“We feel it is wrong to introduce the profit motive into our justice system. Economies made by cutting interpreters’ pay will be used to finance the running of a commercial company and will not, therefore, bring the savings that justice secretary, Ken Clarke, is seeking.”
Unite is urging interpreters and translators to lobby their MPs, saying about 2,300 interpreters will be affected by the changes.
The Chronicle recently reported how the deal with the Ministry of Justice is expected to save £18 million a year and will allow justice organisations to make a booking request which will automatically allocate the nearest interpreter with the right language skills and experience, who is security-checked and approved to work within the justice sector for the particular assignment.
But in the Commons, Manchester Withington MP John Leech said ALS, set up and run by Gavin Wheeldon, a former “Dragons’ Den” contestant, was not suitable to offer the service and urged the Government to rethink its decision.
He argued there was strong evidence to suggest outsourcing led to a lesser quality of interpreting. He claimed only 1,000 public service interpreters had signed up to ALS, saying reluctance highlighted the level of opposition due to worse pay and conditions.