Public Service Interpreting Rates in the UK
Thread poster: MonikaSojka

MonikaSojka  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:35
English to Polish
+ ...
Jan 25, 2005

I have been discussing this topic with a fellow colleague for a while now and we are both concerned about the decrease in rates for public service interpreting in the UK, mainly for medical assignments.
One of the biggest agencies in London have recently lowered their rates by 60% to £18/hr, travel time not paid. Since it takes me on average 1 hour to get to the place (even if I have to wait half an hour in front of the building but as you know London tube is not very reliable so better safe than sorry), 1 hr interpreting conference and an hour to get back, I am being offered slightly more than £5/hr!!
I went through the recruitment process with this agency and even went for induction hoping that there must be some sort of misunderstanding (there wasn't) I was stunned to see that I was the only person among the candidates who actually questioned these rates and the only one who was not interested in working for them when the matter has been explained in detail.
Yesterday I found out that some other agency offers to pay £15/hr + fares, no travel time paid.

I understand that this is an excellent opportunity for starters in interpreting but I am totally outraged by this procedure, I have lost clients because I am not prepared to work for peanuts.

Do you have the same experiences?


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Dominika Schoenborn  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:35
English to Polish
+ ...
They are ripping us off Jan 25, 2005

Unfortunately, life is brutal and it looks like most agencies rip us off. They charge a minimum 50GBP from their clients. I'm usually paid 20GBP + fares in London, but some offer, as you said, 15GBP + fares and that's it. Luckily, it doesn't happen too often, so I only accept those rates if I am not busy. However, I am usually paid 15 GBP/hr + travelling time + fares (for the assignments outside London).
But you are right, some agencies want ue to work FOR PEANUTS. The snag is that there's such a big competition in the UK, that if you refuse, they will always find someone else to do the job for them for the rates they offer. Is there a way out of it? Unfortunately, no. We can always sit and do nothing but no one really wants that.


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Javier Herrera
Spanish
Could be worse :-( Jan 25, 2005

Hi Moonia,
Nice to see you here again.
Once I found an agency that pays £10.50 an hour for court interpreting. Now, I wonder why the extra 50p. Is there a psychological barrier between ten and ten and a half?
As you know, I've worked for peanuts sometimes out of something better to do, but now I'm planning to find direct clients as the only solution. I'm actually planning to visit hospitals this very week.
I've tried to associate with interpreters of many different working languages to jobhunt together, i.e., when somebody finds a person who is interested, tell everyone else. Most people have liked the idea, but when they realize it'll takes an awful lot of time and effort (and it really seems very hard work), it seems that it's more gratifying to get ripped off.
Personally, everytime I work for an agency, I can't help feeling I'm becoming indebted for life, since you can't contact a client you've been introduced to by an agency. (Incidentally, I find this clause reasonable, after all agencies do a lot of marketing work for you, but it's unacceptable to take advantege of their being a powerful entity and pay low rates).
Now that I don't know many clients because I have little experience, I feel free to approach direct clients and explain to them who I am and what I do. The reason why hospital buy services from agencies is that they ensure you're qualified and have a police certificate. I don't need a middle-man to do that for me.


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Yelena.  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:35
English to Russian
+ ...
I am pleased this has been brought up Jan 25, 2005

I was contacted by a very big agency yesterday (incidentally, the one that has a contract with some hospitals and local authorities in the Midlands). They offered me an interpreting job from 6 am till 6 pm and they proposed to pay just 175 pounds plus expenses. It would take me half an hour to get to the venue and half an hour back so I would lose an hour on travelling. Quick sums done, what they offered me was 12.50 per hour for a 12-hour working day! I turned it down as they wouldn't negotiate but would they find anybody who would accept it? I hope not...

[Edited at 2005-05-18 15:38]


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MonikaSojka  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:35
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
- Jan 26, 2005

Yelena, I can assure you some people will go for it. You see, I am not sure about your language combination but there are currently far too many Polish interpreters in London and in this competition-driven environment starters are prepared to work for virtually anything (vide my £15hr + no expenses paid), which is understandable as it gives them experience but brings the market rates down horribly.
And one more point, although to do with translation rather than interpreting- I was contacted by an agency yesterday who offered me £35-£40/1000 words, not negotiable.
This is truly appalling.


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Yelena.  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:35
English to Russian
+ ...
. Jan 26, 2005

Monika,

As for Russian, there are loads of Russian interpreters in London, but as for other areas, there aren't so many, agencies can't so much pick and choose in the Midlands or further north. This is as far as I am aware.

As for translation rates, I also know at least a couple of agencies which pay £35-£40/1000 words. And they do get away with that.

[Edited at 2005-01-26 10:09]


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Javier Herrera
Spanish
What a rate-race. Jan 26, 2005

...

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Javier Herrera
Spanish
A bit off-topic. Some facts and figures Jan 29, 2005

Since you mentioned the number of interpreters per language, I thought I would share some of the figures I found in the NRPSI's publication.
This only shows the interpreters registered, but we know many aren't. It can still be an indication.
TOP TEN
1 Urdu (142 interpreters)
2 Spanish (131)
3 French (105)
4 Panjabi (102)
5 Arabic (88)
6 Turkish (82)
7 Russian (80)
8 Albanian (68)
9 Polish (59)
10 Portuguese (48)
Now, we all know this is not proportional with the real number of members of each language community. It would be impossible to say how many speakers each language has, since people won't stand still in the same place and wait to be counted, but, intuitively, we all know the largest communities are those from the Indian sub-continent and probably Poland (rumours say there are half a million Polish people in London) and other European countries. Definitely not Spanish or French-speakers.
Having said all this and if somebody has any figures about the number of immigrants per country, an index could tell the 'number of interpreters per 1,000 inhabitants', likened to the number of doctors, used around the world. Some communities, like the Spanish, would turn out to enjoy high chances of having an interpreter during their visits to public services(relatively few members and many interpreters), but that would also mean interpreters face a fiercer competence.
I don't think Polish and Russian interpreters are in such a bad possition.


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Public Service Interpreting Rates in the UK

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