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Union for Sign Language Interpreters Launched

A union for sign language interpreters was mooted many moons ago under a Chair of ASLI who was interested at the time. It was an unpopular idea with members and many at the time wanted to keep ASLI as the professional Association for BSL interpreters providing mentoring, training and a support network amongst other things.
The political landscape and the interpreting market have changed radically since then. From 2010 outsourcing has increased in scale and has been damaging to interpreters and the Deaf community they serve. This has been the main subject of many posts on this blog.
I’ve been a Unite member since the launch of NUPIT, the National Union of Professional Interpreters and Translators. Although many of the issues we face are similar to those of spoken language interpreters, there is enough of a difference in this current climate to have warranted a union specifically for sign language interpreters. And therefore NUBSLI was born, the National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters.
External representation is a large bulk of the work that ASLI has done recently given the membership’s concerns about the future of their work. It is frightening not only to experience cuts to terms and conditions but also to see the least experienced, and cheaper interpreters, being employed to do the highest risk jobs. All of which is doubly shocking when you consider the effects to the Deaf community, many of whom are our family and friends.
I have attended frustrating meetings with government as an ASLI representative and I believe we need a stronger voice with the weight of the politically aware behind us: the campaign officers of Unite.
In addition to this ASLI has tried to stay out of the Deaf community’s way in not talking about issues that the Deaf community need to be leading on. When it comes to Access to Work this is a red herring. There have been UKCOD meetings about the AtW changes that have included representatives from the following organisations:
SignHealth, Clarion, Action on Deafness, NDCS, BDA, RAD, BID, AOHL, Sense and NRCPD.
Any interpreter reading that list may note that in the talks about interpreting, of the ten organisations mentioned no less than six have an interest in interpreting as providers of interpreting services. The profits of which will be potentially funding their organisations. One is the register of interpreters, NRCPD. The other three, as Deaf organisations, will be heavy users of interpreters and therefore this is a cost to them.
What I am getting at is that there is no clear voice from interpreters in either UKCoD meetings or meetings with government at ministerial level. It leaves me cold that the future of my profession is being potentially decided by those that perhaps do not fully understand interpreting (the length and cost of training, cost of staying in the profession, day to day challenges, costs of sick/adoption/maternity/carers leave, health and safety concerns) and worse still, have a vested interest in ensuring interpreters are paid less.
The more BSL interpreters that are part of the union the stronger our voice will become. The more Deaf interpreters that are part of the union the stronger our voice will become. The more Deaf people that support the union, the more likely it is that quality interpreter provision will still be accessible after any future AtW changes.
The first NUBSLI meeting is next week on Wednesday 25th June 6.30pm at Unite head office in London. Will you be joining in?
More info about why you should join NUBSLI
Unite the Union
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