Capita's latest pay cut
Capita’s latest scheme to deprive interpreters out of travel expenses could and/or should be described as possibly the last straw to break the camel’s back. If the reduction of the mileage allowance from 40p to 20p was not enough to drive away interpreters, then the latest scheme to calculate travel time to and from assignments based on car journeys definitely will.
Gavin’s Wheeldon’s brain child of developing an IT software that would revolutionise the Public Service Interpreting market. It is without a doubt Gavin who has to be given credit for devising this scheme, and actually selling the idea to the MoJ. His primary model was that more than 75% of all assignments would be a 60 minute assignment. Gavin thought that he could deliver this service for £20.00 and this would include 2 hours travel. Which justifies the claims of this being equivalent of less than the minimum wage.
At the point when the contract went live, Gavin was awakened and brought back to the real world when his primary model was not only working but failing abysmally as no professional interpreter would travel and work for 3 hours for £20.00.
We all then witnessed the bizarre situation where interpreters and those purporting to be interpreters would be criss-crossing the lengths and breadths of the UK for 60 minute court assignments and tribunal hearings. It still remains a wonder as to how this was making financial sense to the finance teams at ALS. Of course, the initial weeks and months were more about the ability to deliver at any cost. Whether Gavin was paying out of his pocket or from the cash instalment that he had received from the MoJ as an upfront payment for operating costs remains a question.
It was after daily reports of the primary model not working that ALS responded very quickly and increased their mileage rate from 20p to 40p, before there were signs of any activity. This increase was of course a breach of T&C of the contract? As the MoJ expected to be billed at 20p per mile. This was allowed to continue long after Gavin had left and enter the management of ‘Capita’. On the 8th January 2013, Capita announced that mileage costs would revert to 20p as ‘per the contract’ with the MoJ.
Since that announcement, Capita Interpreters have stopped travelling the lengths and breadths of the UK using their cars. With the exception of a very low number of interpreters, the majority began using public transport. This situation has been closely monitored by Capita. From the beginning of February, Interpreters began realising that their travel claims were not quite what they were expecting!
From the 8th January 2013, all travel receipts had to be submitted before payment was made. Having received and accepting that travel was by public transport, rail fares were reimbursed. Subsequently, to calculate the same journey as though the journey was made by car was to reduce the travel time (payment) to what it would have been if the journey was made by car.
Example 1 - Luton to Northampton = 5h return journey (via London Euston) + 1 hour assignment = Total 6 hours. Travel time payment = £30.00 (less first 2 hours ). £20.00 for the assignment + cost of ticket.
This is now currently being worked out as 45-60 min journey x 2 from Luton to Northampton + 60 minute assignment. Total pay = £20.00 +cost of ticket? That works out at £3.33ph. (Just in case anybody missed that, Capita do not pay for the first hour of each journey).
Example 2 - Luton to Ipswich = 6h return journey (via London) + 1 hour assignment = Total 7 hours. Travel time payment = £40.00 (less first 2 hours ). £20.00 for the assignment. Total =£60.00 + cost of ticket.
This is now currently being worked out as 2h journey x 2 from Luton to Ipswich + 60 minute assignment. Total pay = £20.00 + £20.00 travel time + cost of ticket? That works out at £5.72ph. (Just in case anybody missed that, Capita do not pay for the first hour of each journey).
Example 3 - Luton to Southampton = 6h return journey (via London) + 1 hour assignment = Total 7 hours. Travel time payment = £40.00 (less first 2 hours ). £20.00 for the assignment. Total =£60.00 + cost of ticket.
This is now currently being worked out as 2h journey x 2 from Luton to Southampton + 60 minute assignment. Total pay = £20.00 + £20.00 travel time + cost of ticket? That works out at £5.72ph. (Just in case anybody missed that, Capita do not pay for the first hour of each journey).
Whatever analysis is applied to these examples, for all intents and purposes, the three examples above are a full day’s pay. To invest 7 hours time and effort for £40.00. That is hardly the remuneration for a highly skilled job!
With Brendan Pells post of the 19th February 2013, confirming the LIT Register having 1272 interpreters in December 2012, this is almost 1000 more than in February 2012. Despite these encouraging numbers, there is one definite pattern emerging. There appears to be a migration of interpreters from the North willing to travel to the fill the jobs in London and the Home Counties. This is not a question of North-South divide, but rather a question of basic economics.
An Interpreter in Oldham maybe paying £400.00 for mortgage/rent for a three bedroom terraced house. In comparison to an Interpreter in Tower Hamlets paying between £1200 - 1500.00 for a two bedroom flat. What does that mean? That the future of all public service interpreting will be serviced by interpreters from the North?
In the week beginning the 18th February 2013, there were interpreters from Manchester, Leeds travelling to tribunal assignments in Taylor House, Hatton Cross, not to mention the 60-minute tribunal assignments. One year on, is this what they continue to describe as ‘teething problems’?
The previous position of stacking up the miles to compensate for the loss of the rates of pay, as per the National Agreement 2007 is now a thing of the past! Or is it ?
Capita states that travel time is calculated using Google based on car journeys and not the actual travel time by public transport. Neither do Capita consider congestion or the M25 peak traffic phenomenon. It is as though they have never heard of it let alone experienced the same. I can perhaps understand Capita staff based in Poland of not being able to relate to this.
What remains incredible is the fact that Gavin Wheeldon and MoJ official sat around a table negotiating terms & conditions, rates of pay, travel expenses. More incredible is the fact that whilst sipping Yorkshire tea and munching Eccles cakes, no one questioned Gavin about how he had managed to persuade Boris Johnson to waive the daily congestion charge and parking fees for all ALS Interpreters.The level of frustration this is causing interpreters when they discover that Capita don’t pay these fees is no surprise. Yet the primary model is based on travel by car?
Interpreters have demonstrated revolt, but every job declined by one interpreter, is being accepted by another interpreter. One cannot help in losing hope that this profession is being sent to the gutters!
The Elite, yet humble group of Crown Court Interpreters carry out a more difficult job than their conference interpreter colleagues who have the luxury of changing every 20 minutes, whilst Crown Court Interpreters in the UK provide simultaneous interpreting hour after hour.
This skilled workforce is going to be lost as one by one they realise that in the age of austerity, and between the MoJ and Capita they remain intent on delivering a supermarket style justice. From the day I entered this profession, the primary complaint across the MoJ has always remained ‘quality of interpreting’. At present that concern has mutated to ‘cost of interpreting’.
Attention all Capita Interpreters! - We the Oracle had told you that as Capita increases the number of interpreters, they will begin to "abuse" you more. Travel expense from 40p to 20p and travel time of car journey are just the beginning! You can go on being treated this way or join a just cause in fighting for justice.