The Home Office has dropped plans to cut the wages of its pool of more than 2,000 interpreters following threats of a mass boycott, which could have brought the system for processing immigration claims across the country to a halt.
The Home Office has more than 2,000 highly trained interpreters on its books, among them members of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL). They have all had to undergo counter-terrorism security clearance, and it would be difficult for the Home Office to replace the current pool of interpreters at short notice.
Following the announcement that planned pay cuts due to take place from 1 January 2016 would be postponed until at least 1 February, officials from the Home Office’s Central Interpreters Unit agreed to meet some of the interpreters to discuss their concerns about the planned pay cuts.
On Friday, the postponement was scrapped and the Home Office announced the launch of a fundamental review of interpreter services, including rates of pay.
Interpreters currently receive £16 an hour on weekdays and slightly more at the weekend. But the first hour’s work is paid at an enhanced rate to recognise the time and cost of travelling to appointments. The Home Office had proposed that the first-hour rate will be cut from £48 to £32 on weekdays and from £72 to £46 at weekends.
A spokesman for Professional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J), of which CIOL is an active member, and which protested strongly to the Home Office about the planned cuts, welcomed the news.
“We are delighted,” he said. “There is a whole range of government interpreting where rates of pay are under threat. Today’s decision by the Home Office is the first outbreak of common sense we’ve seen.”