The National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI) have won a victory over fees, terms and conditions with LanguageLine Solutions who hold one of the large government framework contracts.
Under the national framework agreement interpreters’ terms, conditions and fees faced erosion, with LanguageLine Solutions (LLS) expecting interpreters to accept cuts of a third.
When NUBSLI met the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) in 2015 to discuss framework agreements we made it clear that a reduction from our usual fee system of half day bookings to two hour time slots would be detrimental to our profession and lead to a decline in the number of interpreters which would ultimately drive prices up. Any savings would be short-term once the impact of unsustainable fees began to emerge. The CCS declined to act on our advice and have allowed below-market value tenders to win contracts.
LanguageLine Solutions is perhaps the largest corporate business to hold a BSL/English interpreting contract under the framework. Following a meeting with LLS last year it became clear after consulting with our members that NUBSLI had no alternative but to boycott specific contracts held by LLS.
The boycott, which started in Sheffield in November 2016 and was joined by London BSL/English interpreters in December, has held. Recently LLS entered into negotiations with NUBSLI and, after consulting with our members, we have reached an agreement. LLS have implemented a new payment arrangement and agreed to the guidance fees NUBSLI members work to. We have contacted LLS to say we are delighted to see that they have been able to recognise the NUBSLI fee guidance and offer these sustainable rates to BSL/English interpreters and that we hope this will lead to a successful working relationship with BSL/English interpreters in the UK.
NUBSLI Chairperson, Emma Lipton (one of the interpreters to join the Sheffield boycott), said:
“This is a huge win for NUBSLI, who boast a membership of over a third of the profession. Whilst it hasn’t been a quick win and we don’t pretend it was easy, with many members sacrificing their main stream of work and income (particularly in Sheffield), their persistence has paid off. It is to them we would like to offer our thanks as they have led the way for the rest of the profession. “
NUBSLI have a significant role to play in defending the rights of Deaf BSL users to high quality access provision as well as the integrity of our profession.
We would urge any BSL/English interpreters who are not yet members to join us. This victory has clearly shown the power of collective action. With more and more pressure being placed upon us, now is the time to join the fight back!