Charlie Bavington

Professional French to English Translator - Business and I.T.

Bringing a pragmatic eye to meeting your needs

… And Justice For All

March 23rd, 2012 | Categories: agencies, business

Quite a distracting week for those following the MoJ / ALS saga (I’m just going to assume you know what that is!). It changes the shape of this post, initially drafted several days ago.

I first heard about the matter when I was asked (in Aug 2011) to help draft a petition which finally emerged along with several others around October. (Sadly much cut, since there is a maximum length imposed, and my first effort reached half way to Downing Street.)
I then discovered a forum thread on proz (I know, bear with me) that includes loads of good background to the early days, then later more links than you can shake a stick at to tales of courtroom chaos (in truth, this is the best long-running thread I’ve seen about it, my own contributions notwithstanding).

If you’re on LinkedIn, you might be able to see another thread, on IAPTI’s group, by the indefatigable Au Humarán. (I say might, ‘cos I have doubts about my skills in posting links to LinkedIn – the URLs that site generates are weird and stretch into the next postal district – a peculiar approach for a site of that name…)

More recently, an excellent (and somewhat overlooked) review of how things stand was posted on Naked Translations last week.

Now, while I was (am) all in favour of interpreters’ refusal to work for ALS and highlighting the consequences of the framework agreement while everyone was playing with a straight bat, things are now starting to get a bit murky for my taste.

First there was a claim from ALS it had bought data from the IoL (as it then was) (claim is 2 mins into the video). Then claims it had nicked it. Then the CIoL chipped in to explain the situation, but leaving questions answered, in my view; for instance, they say the information has been “freely available” but does that mean ALS were allowed to store it under the licence they had at the time – if indeed they actually did – or just view it?

It seems some of the “information” being released is more akin to propaganda, since the first claim was clearly couched in terms to make the CIoL appear in cahoots with ALS (still, they haven’t exactly helped their cause by maintaining a solid silence on the whole thing since November, until they piped up to counter Crispin Blunt’s claims about interpreters’ earnings), and the second to smear ALS, as if they needed smearing.

Further evidence? I heard (read tweets) that the CIoL was encouraging DPSI candidates to sign up with ALS in a letter. I asked to see it. I was pointed to a Facebook (aarrgh!) page, where the letter is currently top of the pile. And yet, in fairness to the CIoL, all it does is explain the situation in an entirely neutral tone to those hoping to join the fray. We are verging into the realm of plain, old-fashioned lies.

Meanwhile, there has been much sniping about Gavin Wheldon’s business practices and standards, none of which he has ever attempted to hide or deny, as evidenced by the quotes freely available on his wikipedia page. Water off a duck’s back, I shouldn’t wonder. The mystery is why on earth the MoJ thought he was a fit person as an outsourcing partner. Oh, and talking of ducks, there is the distraction of the rabbit passing ALS’ selection tests. A point initially excellently made, but I would contend now taken too far, with a Twitter account to join the less-than-hilarious Wheldon spoof account (I’m not following either one, but they get retweeted ad infinitum).

Neither does the government itself seem to have much clue what is going on. One would think, would one not, that a measure brought in to save costs would measure those costs, just to make sure? (Although anyone who reads Private Eye would know that might be the triumph of hope over experience.) But it was initially reported, in the linguistlounge.ORG, set up to log ALS’ failings, that records are not being kept. Ah, but wait…. Our old chum Crispin “interpreters earn 6-figure salaries” Blunt says that they are, but no-one can see them.

So while I’ll probably stop posting about this shambolic balls-up now, as it descends into mud-slinging and misinformation (to which I have unwittingly been party once or twice), I do still object in principle to the whole idea. In the unlikely event I were asked to draft another petition, I would do so. As I said on that proz thread, my objection is basically that our glorious free-market and local-private-sector-solution supporting government has kicked a free market of local private sector service providers into touch and instituted a state-sponsored competition-stifling private-sector quasi-monopoly in its place. And monopolies are always bad news for someone. Private-sector monopolies all the more so.

And while I appreciate that some will take the view that any kind of pressure that can be brought to bear should be used, I’m starting to think that the campaign is taking some unpleasant and unnecessary turns. I’ve always thought that the fact that our learned friends are also feeling the adverse effects will ultimately prove to be the decisive factor, and I still believe that to be true. While the ALS contract does have a 3-month no-fault termination clause, I’m not sure that setting up a sideshow to cast aspersions on Wheldon, ALS testing procedures, or even the CIoL (much as their behaviour mystifies even me) is the way to get the government to invoke it. The best way is surely by demonstrating a comprehensive failure to perform (the subject of a different termination clause, in fact) and while it seems the actual measurement of performance may be in some doubt, I think the legal profession are the best placed to take the necessary steps with the MoJ for that to happen.

Meanwhile, despite the undoubted misfortune of those at the seriously sharp end of this debacle, I wholeheartedly continue to support the decision of those choosing not to work for ALS which, after all, can only help achieve the desired result as outlined above.

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