Capita responds to complaints about reduced pay
Linguist Lounge has received a letter for publication on the site, which was sent by Capita Translation and Interpreting to one of their interpreters working under the MoJ’s Framework Agreement. The interpreter complained to Capita about the recent cuts in rates and withdrawal of a bonus, which this site reported about.
We are now getting used to drivel in the comments they make to the media, and one would give them the benefit of the doubt thinking that they would treat their interpreters with a bit more sincerity and respect, but no.
Once again, as in their mass emailshot about the cut in rates from 8th January 2013, Capita starts by acknowledging that without their workforce they would not be able to pull it off even on the abysmal standards level we have seen over the past year. Vicki Burns, the Operations Manager, states: “It would not be possible to achieve the level of service required by our Customers, and in particular, the Ministry of Justice if it were not for the dedication and hard work that the interpreters demonstrate on an ongoing basis.
From the inception of the Ministry of Justice Framework Agreement on 28th November 2011, the terms and conditions stated that the mileage rate was set at twenty pence per mile (after the first ten miles each way) and travel time payments are calculated as if travel is made by car.
In early 2012, a number of interim measures were introduced to support the launch of the Framework Agreement. One of these interim measures was to increase the mileage rate from twenty pence to forty pence per mile; this measure was independently funded by Capita. It is not viable under the terms of the MoJ Framework Agreement for Capita to retain this level of subsidised payment on a long term basis; therefore, a business decision has been made at the start of 2013 that it is necessary to revert back to the original contracted mileage rate of twenty pence per mile.”
She goes on to say: “We will continue to review our terms and conditions from time to time as it is good business practice to do so and notification will be given in the event of any further changes. This allows Capita to provide advance notification of a variation to the terms of the contract in respect of assignments that have already been scheduled but have not yet commenced, and to allow you as a supplier to make a decision as to whether you wish to withdraw from the fulfilment of those particular assignments.”
What do we infer from this last paragraph? I see it as an intention to cut rates further, especially as, by Capita’s own admission, the previous “level of subsidised payment was NOT VIABLE”. The rates can now only go down. Again, this is not surprising as the original terms advertised by ALS in August 2011 specified that travel time would only be paid on a discretionary basis: “Travel Time: Based on the calculations made by route planners, interpreters making their way to work are not paid for travel time if the combined total of their outbound and inbound trips amounts to less than 2 hours. In the rare event that a round journey is in excess of 2 hours duration, a discretionary additional payment may apply.” It appears that Capita’s accountant has seen the huge losses Capita already made from the deal (purchased ALS for 7.5 million pounds and by November 2012 already invested 5.4 million pounds to prop up the contract), and a good accountant simply cannot allow a loss-making business to carry on in the same spree.
As an employer, does Capita show any understanding for their people? Unlikely, and as if putting words in their people’s mouth if they threatened to leave, Vicki Burns adds that notifications in rate changes will allow “you as a supplier to make a decision as to whether you wish to withdraw from the fulfilment of those particular assignments.”
On the issue of withdrawing services, I have also seen another letter sent to another Capita interpreter by the same Vicki Burns where she addresses the issue of assignment cancellations: “We have been alerted to the fact that in recent months, on more than one occasion, you have failed to attend bookings that you have been assigned to. We realise that you have called in to cancel some of these bookings, however, the notice given was too short and as a consequence, we were not able to source interpreters to replace you in time.” Ms Burns warns of disciplinary proceedings: “We will be monitoring your bookings over the coming months and should there be any further instances of you failing to attend, or should we receive any complaints, we will address this with you and may not assign any further bookings to you.” Is Capita tightening screws on their people? It’s interesting that their interpreter, who was the subject of our exposé story, continues working in courts.
Capita insists it would not compensate costs of car parking as their rates absorb it all: “As you have mentioned in your letter, a number of assignments are located in main town centres, where the parking rates are typically more expensive than in rural areas. We have in place a single blended rate for all assignments, and interpreters are anticipated to select the most practical and efficient means of travel for each assignment. We recognise that interpreters may prefer to travel to some assignments by public transport as it may be a less expensive, more convenient option. The value of the mileage rate may be used to pay for public transport.”
The opening line in the last paragraph of Capita’s letter submitted to this site reads: “We trust that this response has addressed all of the matters raised in your letter and we do hope that this gives you have a clearer understanding as to why such decisions have been necessary.” In other words, we are not budging, take it or leave it. Is Capita really interested in retaining their workforce? Probably not, as it transpired in the Public Accounts Committee hearings, it’s cheaper for Capita to pay tiny service credits charged by the MoJ in case of failures to provide the service, than to reimburse substantial travel expenses and travel time incurred by interpreters travelling long distances. If Capita’s margin on interpreting rates is tiny and under the Framework Agreement Capita does not charge the MoJ for travel time or any expenses, can this contract ever be made profitable? Highly unlikely, unless Capita has hired an accountant who is a part-time magician.