Not all ALS linguists are equal. Ask what deal your fellow workers have struck
One claim Capita-owned Applied Language Solutions made at the start of the Framework Agreement was that the pay rates across the “tiers” of interpreters are “fixed”. Through monitoring the company’s abysmal performance it turns out this is not the case.
Some of the sharper pencils in the ALS box have negotiated individual packages going above the official deal. These include different fees, full travel time, increased mileage and other expenses. We’ve even heard one case where childcare has been thrown in as well! Of course, while this is going on, others get paid the standard peanuts. How has this two-tier system (pardon the pun) come about?
Since Applied Language Solutions started in the courts in February, there has been active monitoring of what its linguists have been up to. In speaking to people working for ALS, several have told us their ‘deal’ stories.
Let’s take one Portuguese speaking ALS worker at Boston Magistrates court last week. No, he doesn’t go out for the standard terms, he has also agreed to get full mileage for the whole journey, plus all travel time paid. He also claims other expenses, including parking.
In contrast another linguist attending the same court on the same day was only being paid the standard rates and conditions. The differences became more apparent when it emerged this particular worker had already been hit with a parking ticket on a court assignment. So in some cases, ALS pays for parking and in others it doesn’t. In ALS land, not all workers are equal.
Of course, during our observations, we have come across many similar stories. In one particular package ALS promised to pay all travel expenses for the whole journey, including public transport. Everyone else is told that no, ALS does not normally pay for rail or bus travel.
Of course, Applied Language Solutions can choose to pay whatever it likes to try to persuade people to work, but this doesn’t quite tally with the public claims of “no negotiation” or “reverse auctions”. In the case of the MOJ contract, the reverse auctioning appears to happen the other way round. A bizarre twist on the business model.
So why create this byzantine system where some workers get better treatment than others? The analysis here is easy. In bidding for the contract at a hideously low price, Applied Language Solutions has made promises it cannot deliver. Instead of having a group of hungry workers happy to take the peanuts on offer, it has to persuade a depleting number of interpreters to turn out.
If you are one of the shrinking number of ALS interpreters out in the courts, why not ask your colleagues attending the same court what their deal is?
Next time, when you get that desperate call asking you to hurtle across the country, you could name your price. But grab it while you can. Like all offers, this must end soon. That will be another story.
Oh, and if you are offered a deal, do get it in writing for obvious reasons.