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  • Fears for the future of British Sign Language interpreters prompts call for minimum fees


    Members of Britain’s biggest union Unite, working as freelance British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters have backed the call for the introduction of a minimum fees structure to safeguard the profession in the face of colossal cut backs.

    The National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI), a part of Unite, has said that the government’s massive public sector funding squeeze and increased privatisation has seen pay rates fall by approximately 12 per cent since 2010. 

    Drafted by NUBSLI, the ‘Minimum Fees’ document, (available here) sets out the minimum rates of pay for freelance BSL/English Interpreters across the UK in a bid to halt the continual erosion of the profession’s terms of engagement and rates of pay. 

    The union’s 200 NUBSLI members, who provide interpreting services for deaf people in all areas, including in court and television, are engaged by agencies such as the police and local authorities now grappling with huge budget cuts. 

    Unite is calling on the government to support the introduction of a minimum fees structure as a first step to safeguarding the future of quality interpreting services for the country’s deaf community. 

    Nicky Evans, NUBSLI branch secretary, said: “Mounting concern over the future of quality interpreting for deaf people and a desire to safeguard the profession against attacks on pay are what has prompted our call for a minimum fees structure. 

    “The drive to cut costs at any cost is setting back the incredible strides made by the deaf community over the past 30 years. We believe that some contracts are being awarded at levels so low that the provision of services can only be offered by persons with low level language qualifications and no interpreting skills.

    “Over the last few years there has been less work available for our members indicating that deaf people are losing out on access whether at work or in other areas of their lives. This is completely unacceptable.

    “NUBSLI believes that the introduction of a minimum fees structure will go some way to protecting not only our members’ livelihoods but a profession that is a lifeline to the country’s deaf community. 

    “The government needs to recognise the far reaching implications of its damaging public sector spending cuts. Deaf people are losing out. The very future of the interpreting profession is at risk. It will be impossible to maintain the profession’s commitment to high standards and ethics if terms and rates of pay continue to be slashed.”

    Established in May 2014, NUBSLI is Unite’s fastest growing union branch, representing over 20 per cent of the BSL interpreting profession. 


    For more information please contact, Unite campaigns officer Chantal Chegrinec on 0777414677 

    Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 

    • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey