A summary of the articles in this issue of the Digger. Click the Headline to view the full story.
You wait for one conference and three come along at once!..
Once more the digging season approaches and thoughts turn to chemical toilets, sunburn and insect bites. Do we give enough thought to the issues, both large and small, that might affect our working lives?.
Scarlett Johansson, the new USD4 million face of cosmetics company L'Oreal, is the latest celebrity who longs to be an archaeologist. ...
The campaigning group Diggers' Forum has issued a stark challenge to those in charge of the industry. The Forum's latest newsletter focuses on the damage done by low pay and demands that those in senior positions 'let us know what they are doing to remedy the situation.'
The Forum, which is a Special Interest Group within the Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA) but open to all site staff, aims to unify contract archaeologists to campaign for change. Founded two years ago, the Forum's influence is growing: this year it is taking part in two conferences (see below) and it now holds four of the 21 seats on the ruling IFA Council after the election of Andy Towle in September.
The Forum asked three archaeologists at different stages of their career how poor pay affected their lives. C. North has a masters and has been working for a year. 'I feel that in my mid-twenties I am at somewhat of a turning point when it comes to pursuing a career in archaeology: whether to stop now and try something which provides me with a better wage, or to continue to do the job that I love.' Initial enthusiasm is 'slowly becoming eroded by the lack of appreciation: I cannot make any plans for my financial future or enjoy my present given that I need to continually plan for a possible redundancy just around the corner.'
As for climbing higher in the profession: 'the rungs on that ladder are so far apart as to look unattainable, particularly when contrasted with the careers pursued by my fellow graduates and the stark contrast in our starting salaries.' Cat Edwards who has been working longer in the industry says that the current level of pay for archaeologists is insulting. 'Even though everyone is aware of this problem no-one is doing anything about it, no one with the power to change things anyway.' In her experience 'the variation [in pay] from unit to unit seems to be increasing rather than equalling out.' MoLAS site supervisor Jez Taylor has been an archaeologist for twenty years and is one of the Forum members who sits on the IFA Council. 'I earn just below 20 grand a year. That would be a pretty healthy wage in some parts of England, but not so hot if you live in one of the most expensive cities in the world.' He adds: 'Pay rates are appalling at all levels, whether you're in a management post or starting out on your first excavation, but field and finds archaeologists working below management level are hit hardest.' All three archaeologists interviewed have problems with housing and rely on partners or family to help out.
Low pay means it is virtually impossible to escape the rental market and
buy a place of their own. Jez points out that many people just want 'a secure
decent home, and for some, the opportunity to raise a family. Current pay
levels for archaeologists working in our sector make it difficult for us to
achieve even these most basic human ambitions.' He says: 'I sense little urgency
from the powers that be to resolve the issue. I think that those in the hierarchy
who doubt the seriousness of the situation, should try taking a long, hard
look at the standard of living endured by archaeologists who are not working
in management posts. I would like them to ask themselves whether that standard
of living really is acceptable. 'I would have thought that the people who
run our archaeological units and other organisations might be better placed
to push through the radical reforms the profession so desperately needs. Having
said that, we need to fight our corner. I would encourage people to join the
Diggers' Forum ... We should also press for further unionisation of units,
and where this is achieved, be prepared to flex some muscle.' To join the
Diggers' Forum or to recive a copy of their newsletter contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Start balance (this issue) +UKP62
Total contributions +UKP55
Total costs (projected) -UKP194
End balance -UKP77
Hands in pockets folks!!
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