ALS, will you please remove me from your list of service providers!!!
I have been reading a lot of blog posts and tweets about the MoJ/ALS debacle this week. For those of you who are unaware of the situation (unfortunately it seems that only those working in the language and justice spheres are truly aware), here is a brief overview:
Last August, Applied Language Solutions (ALS) won the contract to supply translation and interpreting services to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). The MoJ expects the collaboration to save it £18m a year, amounting to a reduction in translation costs of one third. Under the agreement, courts and services such as the police obtain interpreters via this agency. Instead of saving money, this centralised system of recruiting interpreters is proving to be costly due to its inefficiencies. This week alone has seen the collapse of a trial after an interpreter gave the wrong evidence (See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-17709440). The result: more distress for the defendant and a re-trial that could amount to £25,000. This is just one of a catalogue of incidents that has led to a boycott of this agency by translators and interpreters, and has led professionals working in the justice system to seriously question the worth of this new arrangement (See http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/mar/02/interpreters-courts-protest-privatised-contract). Prior to the agreement, translators and interpreters were sourced at a local level and most people agreed that the system worked.
Now let’s talk about me…
Let me tell you my experience of ALS. Last year I registered with ALS because I mistakenly believed they were a respectable agency. They were advertising for legal translators, and as a French>English translator and a law graduate, I naturally applied. Sometime later I was offered my first assignment: the translation of a contract, within a tight deadline, and for about a third of my minimum rate. No thank you! I replied to tell the project manager I was horrified at the proposed rate and to ask that he remove me from his list of service providers. At this point I did some research into the agency and discovered that they are notorious for their insulting rates.
Since asking to be removed from their database, I am still receiving emails from ALS. I have received another translation request, and more recently, a number of emails concerning procedures for interpreters. (Which is strange seeing as I never even registered with them as an interpreter!) I have contacted them a further two times to ask to be removed from their database, and still the emails keep coming!
Now, you might think I could just shut up and delete the emails, but that isn’t enough here! I heard recently that ALS has used the details of some translators without their permission. I don’t know if this is true but it concerns me because in my original application, I only ever ticked the translation box! I have never claimed to have any interpreting experience. So why am I receiving these emails?! Have they included me on their list of interpreting staff? I certainly hope not.
It’s just not acceptable and I feel annoyed that if/when they are finally investigated, they are able to boost the numbers of interpreting staff on file using the details of translators like me, who simply do not wish to be associated with the agency.
ALS, if you are reading this, will you please remove me from your list of service providers!! I don’t want to receive any more emails from you – you make a mockery of my job and you are driving down this industry for freelancers all over the UK. What’s more, you have no regard for the necessity of justice in the courts! To those who have the power to award such contracts in the first place, please consider the worth of the so-called savings you are trying to make. Admit defeat, and let the system return to normal.