image of Theresa May

What is it about the office of Home Secretary that turns people into control freaks?

Yesterday’s Guardian reports that the Home Office wants to cut the pay of the estimated 2,000 interpreters it uses in processing immigration claims.

Interpreters received an email from the Home Office’s central interpreters unit in Liverpool on 20th November notifying them that their pay would be cut from 1st January.

Interpreters currently receive £16 per hour for working weekdays and slightly more at weekends. In addition, a Home Office interpreter’s first hour of work is paid at an enhanced rate to reflect the time and cost of travelling to appointments; this is being reduced from £48 to £32 on weekdays and from £72 to £46 at weekends.

Home Office interpreters have not had a pay increase since 2002, i.e. they’ve already had 13 years of de facto pay cuts – and the actual pay cut announced for the New Year will be implemented in various areas of the Home Office’s work, including UK Visas and Immigration, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and HM Passport Office. For this work they have to be highly trained and undergo counter-terrorism security clearance.

As a result of this insulting treatment by Theresa May’s department, interpreters are threatening a mass boycott. The boycott is planned to start on 1st January, followed by a series of walk-outs thereafter.

One unnamed organiser told The Guardian: “There is no strike planned because, as freelancers, we cannot legally do so. We may, however, choose not to accept assignments and that is what the boycott will consist of.”

“At the moment, the Home Office needs interpreters more than we need them. They do not have any other system currently in place to substitute our services other than for telephone interpreting, which they can outsource to thebigword. They know that if we boycott even for a day, that will cause major disruptions to their business.”

In addition, the interpreters have written to the Home Office to express their disgust at this disgraceful treatment and the lack of consultation, the latter being a breach by the Home Office of the interpreters’ contractual terms.

As per usual with this dreadful government, the Home Office spokesperson contacted by The Guardian insisted that the department had done nothing wrong and everything was hunky dory.

From where I’m sitting, it looks like there’s every chance of a repeat of the drop in professional standards and other farcical states of affairs that occurred when the Ministry of Justice placed interpreting for courts and tribunals in the incompetent hands of Capita Translation & Interpreting (posts passim).