Interpreters pay dispute threatens widespread chaos
The announcement that Home Office interpreters are planning to suspend their activity in protest against a cut in their pay threatens to throw the immigration system into chaos. With front line interpreters removed from the process, the strain on all aspects of the UK government’s immigration and visa service threatens to be extremely disruptive. Even areas not directly affected, such as appeals against Tier 2 sponsor licence suspensions, stand to suffer unprecedented delays.
The 2,000 interpreters concerned, who are not directly employed by the Home Office but who work on a freelance basis, have been told that their pay is to be cut with effect from January 1st. Those involved insist there has been no consultation on the matter and that the Government has acted precipitously and unfairly. The Government insist they have done nothing illegal.
Knock on effects
The workers affected have been paid an hourly rate of £16 since 2002 with an enhanced rate of £48 for the first hour of any consultation (or £72 at weekends). This enhanced first hour rate was intended to recognise the travelling and preparation time involved. It is this first hour rate which is being cut – to £32 and £46 at weekends.
The knock on-effects threaten to disrupt the entire Home Office system, including UK Visas and Immigration, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and HM Passport Office, with the scheduling of events such as Tier 2 sponsor licence suspensions which, although not directly affected, are bound to be disrupted by the general uncertainty that is bound to arise.
The Home Office interpreters are highly trained and are routinely obliged to undergo security checks. They are not a workforce that can be easily replaced. Furthermore they are often the only front line staff whom applicants are fully able to communicate with directly. They not only provide a vital service for the Home Office, they are a hugely important point of human contact for migrants and those appealing Home Office decisions. As such their treatment at the hands of the Government justifies a wider support not only for those whose cases are directly affected but for everyone interacting with UKVI, even including those appealing against a Tier 2 Sponsor suspension.
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