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Why join a Union? FAQs

As reported in the previous post NUBSLI has launched. The first meeting is Wednesday 25th June at 6.30pm at Unite the Union’s head office in London.
As many BSL interpreters need to join as possible. Here is why you should, and some answers to some queries you may have:
Whether employed or freelance will we actually be stronger in negotiations as a result of being in a union? If only 100 registered interpreters joined NUBSLI that would represent 10% of those on the register. That would mean a high percentage of a profession that are members of a union. This is one of NUBSLI’s stated aims. If the union has that much representation we will be harder for government to ignore.
What do I get out of being in a Union? Uniting with colleagues under a common banner where everyone recognises the importance of their work and being paid appropriately for it. Being a collective voice which is stronger and absolutely necessary in the face of government cuts. Union services also include help with personal injury claims, employment matters, wills, conveyancing and many other legal issues.
Why do we need a Union to negotiate? We have ASLI who does representational work for interpreters at various meetings with relevant parties. With the backing of a Union, we have much more legal and political clout. We actually cannot survive as interpreters without one and it is legally and politically the only way to ensure we can still work.
Does being in a union work? It did for the National Union of Farmers against the likes of Tesco when fighting for a decent price for milk. Unionised workers earn on average 8% more, you can access training opportunities to update your skills and get more job security.
I thought unions were for employees. Is it worth being in a union if you are freelance? It is for London’s black cab drivers. Unite has been helping them fight their cause since 1874. Unite has several taxi branches around the UK. Drivers have faced mass deregulation by parliament via the Law Commission and have used unions to fight against this. Union backing has ensured members have participated in lobby groups, meetings with legal and political representatives such as councillors and MPs and greater liaison with relevant parties such as disability groups.
Do I have to be politically aware or an activist? No. A union has a democratic structure with no hierarchy. Some members will be more politically active than others, a union needs those members for it to work. The more it has the better but not everyone has to be political.
But do I have to strike? Unions get a bad press. No. A strike is a last resort if negotiations fail. There are other options such as lobbying your MP. The media in this country is predominantly right wing and does not support unions. Unions have other roles apart from fighting for worker’s rights such as training,
What cost for a stronger voice and to continue in a career as an interpreter? The rates are £3.06 per week for enhanced rate, £2.91 basic rate, 58p for students, 50p if you are on leave or you work less than 10 hours per week. Even at the enhanced rate that’s only the price of a cup of coffee per week to help safeguard your career.
How do I join? You can join via Unite or at the NUBSLI website. When joining, please mention membership number: 20390369. For every member mentioning that number, Unite will donate £25 to NUBSLI which will contribute towards the running of the union. NUBSLI is a branch of Unite and the branch number is LE/7380L.
Trade Unions: Know your facts from your fiction

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