Why interpreters should join NUBSLI

By NUBSLI | Published on 10 December 2015


Before I start explaining what I believe NUBSLI can achieve and what it can offer you as an individual, I’d like to speak briefly about the elephant in the room.


I am a Labour member and supporter; I make no secret of this, and am very proud to be part of my party. You don’t have to be, nor am I asking you to become a member. When joining NUBSLI you can choose whether you want any of your subs to go to supporting the Labour Party or not. Tick a box and you can ensure that not a penny of your money supports Labour. Members of any political persuasion can join and we welcome everyone (although I do reserve the right to raise an eyebrow to UKIP!).

There is some confusion (and even fear) over trade unions. We aren’t militant, striking, brainwashed extremists, as the right wing press would have you believe. Trade unions represent workers who are just like you. They are our nurses, our primary school teachers, our lollipop men. They are firefighters, bus drivers and bakers. They are the people you meet whilst going about your everyday life. The uniting feature is that they all believe everyone has rights in the workplace: the right to decent working terms and conditions and the right to fair pay. I, for one, don’t see any of that as being unreasonable.

So what can NUBSLI do for you?

NUBSLI has the opportunity to unite our profession. Our professional organisations represent different views and offer different benefits to their members. Both VLP and ASLI offer valuable support to their members and to the development of our profession. NUBSLI isn’t a professional organisation, it’s a union: our remit is therefore very different.

We are able to represent our members politically, and with the support of Unite, Britain’s largest union, we can access legal and political expertise which would otherwise be unavailable to us.

Our profession is under threat

Our profession is under threat. Minister for Disabled People, Mark Harper, at the evidence session of the Work & Pension Select Committee made his feelings very clear: “BSL interpreters are paid from the public purse”. Politician code for ‘we can take control of the market and force down our terms, conditions and pay’. They view us as too expensive. They don’t see the length of training, skill and knowledge we possess. They don’t understand the consequences to the Deaf community if quality of interpreting provision diminishes. They don’t take into account all the costs we absorb. That is our challenge: to make them see these things.

NUBSLI will be balloting on a minimum fee structure in order to protect our income. We aren’t trying to dictate what people can charge, we are merely saying to the powers that be that we have an amount for remuneration, below which, we cannot sustain our profession.

We will be starting research into Upper Limb Disorder to support our terms and conditions and are looking at many other areas of work which we need to undertake to strengthen our position.

If you are one of the people who don’t believe in unions, then we ask you to instead, believe in your profession. Join for six months. Once we are no longer in the precarious position we currently find ourselves, leave. We can help safeguard the provision of interpreting services in the UK, but we can’t do it without you: Join NUBSLI today!

Please go to Unite’s website and join us today!