Bradford interpreters angry over pay rate cut
The interpreters, who provide services at courts and for the NHS, work on a freelance basis for Bradford Community Interest Company Enable2.
They say the latest cut, from £16.50 to £13 a hour for face-to-face interpreting with less than two weeks' notice, could cause real hardship for some as they might only have two or three sessions a day and they have travel and other costs on top.
A few years ago some interpreters were paid £25 an hour.
The company says market conditions have meant they have had to cut what they charge for their services and so cannot maintain the rates that they pay.
A petition started on change.org by the United Interpreters Yorkshire group has attracted more than 400 signatures.
A member of the group said: "This will cause real hardship.
"As a self-employed interpreter, you don't know how much you're going to earn in a month.
"It's not acceptable.
"This is the lowest, others pay a lot more than this."
She said they were told they could work for other agencies and many interpreters may do just that: "People are not prepared to work for that money."
Once travelling time and costs are included, it might mean interpreters may only take home £6 an hour, she added.
She said Enable2 are employing a lot more interpreters without qualifications and the service offered could be affected.
She said interpreting was not just about knowing how to speak a language, especially when they are called to police stations or some parts of the NHS.
"I've got a diploma, I know what a professional person is."
Joanne Kennedy, operations director at Enable2, said: "Enable2 is a Community Interest Company providing linguistic support for people needing support when they access healthcare and other public sector services
"To be clear, We are not a profit-making entity. Of our revenue, at present around 76% is paid directly to our interpreters, and the additional money is either used to pay for our infrastructure or reinvested back into the communities we serve through our Community Investment Fund.
"The issue that we have faced is that, since 2008, market conditions have reduced what we are able to charge for our services. The reduction in public-sector budgets, coupled with a marked increase in the number of interpreting and translation services, has meant that we have been able to charge about 50% of what was the going rate a decade ago.
"We have tried to shield our interpreters from the cuts as much as possible, but it is simply not possible to maintain the rates we were able to pay.
"To put this into some context, when interpreters were being paid £25 an hour their payments were equivalent to about 60% of our total revenue. Despite the reduction in pay the interpreters have had to face, the total percentage of our revenue that we are now paying directly to interpreters has actually increased to 76%.
"We want to stress that these changes mean that Enable2 is not undercutting the market. In fact, as our recent tenders have shown, our prices are in line with the sector as a whole. We are simply having to change our operating model to ensure that our very talented team of interpreters continue to receive work from us."