It's All about Numbers
Mr Wheeldon stumbled on his numbers at Dragon's Den. All this interpreting chaos is about numbers. We are professionals living in the 21st century in the UK. Most of us have got degrees and post graduate degrees with ongoing professional development achievements.
We all know that financial pressure is prevalent around us. Just like our household budgets, the MOJ needs to cut down its spending.
We have been told that Applied Language Solutions will save the MOJ 18 million pounds. It is a brilliant idea, isn’t it? We also hear of the disappointment of the interpreters with their pay cut. Let's see the numbers once more. 18 million is nearly one third less, but at what cost for the interpreter? It is simply a slaughter of the profession. Previously when an interpreter was booked, he/she would book their time for the day. The job might last the whole day or finish within the first hour. The interpreter would get the minimum payment of around £110 in most courts in London area (it can be a little more or less due to the distance and time travelled). According to the new system, he/she will get £20 for the same job. So practically, after taking out the £10 travel expense, he/she would earn £10 in comparison to £100 earned previously. Travel time is promised by ALS to be paid after the first hour which is reported not to be paid even when the interpreter travelled for three to four hours. There are many other discrepancies, but I would like to use the above-mentioned examples to highlight the ongoing situation. In reality, even if he/she works for 3 hours, he/she will only get paid £60. After taking away £10 travel cost, the amount left in the pocket is £50, which is 50% of the previous court payments.
It is not feasible for a professional interpreter to refuse other jobs for the day when they are only guaranteed a £20 minimum payment. Mr. Wheeldon claims that after much consultation with court interpreters, he has raised the minimum payment for the first hour to £25 (£15 after travel cost). Ironically, this £5 increase is not offered for all jobs. Only few electronic job offers state that the job will have £5 electronic acceptance payment. This is an insult to the injury.
I am sure we all have many other skills apart from interpreting and we can put them to a better use rather than going through this humiliation.
One can see from the above-mentioned real case scenarios that professional interpreters are losing 50% to 90% of their income. The Ministry of Justice is saving less than 30%. There is certainly a big fish trying to get the lion’s share.
I do not exploit, nor do I like to be exploited. I have always thought that education barricades exploitation. I am sure that Mr Wheeldon has tried to exploit the wrong crowd.