Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (Interpreters)
Pauline McNeill (Glasgow) (Lab):
To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on recent changes to the terms and conditions of interpreters used by the courts service. (S5O-02193)
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson):
The Scottish Government has a framework agreement for interpreting, translation and transcription services, which is used by Scottish public sector bodies, including the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service. There are two suppliers on the framework agreement. There have been no recent changes to the framework terms and conditions. The Scottish Government does not contract directly with individual interpreters. Any terms and conditions of employment are a matter between the interpreter and the contractor.
Is the cabinet secretary aware that a group of interpreters recently went on strike because of the imposition by Global Connects of new terms and conditions, whereby payment for travel time was removed? Does he not agree that there should be a public interest in the matter, given that it is governed by his office? In circumstances in which interpreters were not paid for travel time, they would, in effect, earn less than the minimum wage. Is the cabinet secretary not concerned about the possibility of interpreters who work in our courts—albeit that they are self-employed—earning less than the minimum wage? Surely the issue deserves scrutiny.
As I mentioned, Scottish Procurement is aware of the fact that one of its suppliers recently changed its terms and conditions for interpreters in relation to the allocation of work and the rates for travel and expenses that it provides. The fixed rates in the framework agreement that the Scottish Government has in place are inclusive of all hourly rates, travel of up to 70 miles, expenses and management fees. At the tender stage, suppliers are required to bid on the basis of the principles that are set out in the framework agreement. It was for the bidders to decide, in their responses to the tender, what fully inclusive fixed rates would be appropriate to cover hourly travel rates, including travel of up to 70 miles, expenses and management fees.
The Scottish Government does not contract directly with interpreters. It is for the contractors to agree rates of pay with their staff. However, if the member wants to write to me with more details on the matter, given that it relates to the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, I will ensure that the chief executive of that service responds to the concerns that she has raised.