Dec 252016
 

This was the damage caused by a truck that killed four people, including a little girl, because the owners ran a haulage company as cheaply as they could. They did little servicing of their vehicles and knew perfectly well that the brakes on the vehicle were faulty but they allowed a driver to take it out on the road.They have been sentenced to jail terms. This will not bring the victims back and when they get out of prison these same perpetrators will no doubt go back into some sort of business and run it as unethically as they ran this one.

That is the trouble. As has been pointed out, if you act unethically in business and have no moral conscience, you are bound to succeed! It is the slave-owner mentality, the mentality that allows people to ruthlessly exploit other people for their own benefit. We have seen a few examples of this recently, homeless men held prisoner by farmers who make them work for long hours and pay them little or nothing.

The slave-owner mentality is shared by certain government ministers. Seeing the huge rise in the need for public service interpreters due to the influx of foreigners, the government cynically decided to farm out all public service interpreting (police, court, social services, NHS) by offering a large lump sum to an agency of their choice to supply any and all interpreters for a three-year period. They would be aware, of course, that if the arrangement was to be profitable for the agency, the fee offered to interpreters would amount to slave wages. The original claim was that this would represent a saving of £18 million, a figure invented by someone in the Ministry of Justice and plucked from thin air, of course. In the event, the arrangement actually cost the taxpayer large sums of money. That is because the kind of people who would work for £20.00 for half a day’s work (less, in fact, because they often could not take any other work that day) were not trained, or even competent, interpreters. Often an interpreter would not bother to turn up at all to court or wherever else he/she had been summoned. In a few cases, the lack of a suitable interpreter resulted in a defendant being kept in custody for weeks at a time. In fact, the cost to the taxpayer in terms of lost time, remands, etc. is incalculable.

Due to the utter incompetence and greed of the contracted agency, the government was urged to terminate the initial contract prematurely but it never did so. When the three-year contract finally expired, at least it was not renewed; the new arrangement is with another rapacious translation agency, on the same terms as before, and again interpreters are being paid well below minimum wage. This is possible because interpreters are “freelance”, i.e.allegedly self-employed. The government seems to have come to some sort of arrangement with the Inland Revenue about this, since interpreters ought to be employees of the agency hiring them, but this government encourages the “gig economy” of which interpreters are just another bunch of victims, along with those who work for Deliveroo, Uber and zero hours contract employers. How ironic that this is the government that has introduced the Anti-Slavery Act!

The agencies involved in hiring out public service interpreters are run in the same way as the company that sent out defective trucks that would eventually kill innocent bystanders. Their owners are utterly unscrupulous and interested solely in profit, to the detriment of everything else. We do not know how many victims there are of incompetent, untrained, underpaid people who call themselves language interpreters. The truth is that the translation agencies who use them are hugely successful and will continue to be so because their immorality will be allowed to continue unchecked.