It’s not the first time IfA have been mentioned in the Private Eye, but the latest edition (Issue 1337, 18 April) has given about 3 inches of copy to the recent decisions regarding IfA salary minima and the absolute requirement of IfA Registered Organisations to meet them. The article is a supportive one, and though some of the points on policy are misleading, it is interesting to see some joining up of the dots with regards to the current challenges facing heritage professionals. The article begins with the axe of Time Team from Channel 4, and goes on to highlight areas across the heritage profession which are facing cuts; Southampton Archaeology, Merseyside Archaeology Service and Exeter Archaeology unit all getting a mention due to recent cuts and closures.
The link to IfA Council’s decision to amend the absolute requirement of Registered Organisations to meet the minima is not well explained, but the intimation is that, due to the limited number of jobs currently available, commercial units are undercutting each other to win jobs. The follow on implication is that IfA has been forced to drop the requirement to pay minima and that, as a result, salaries will fall further leading to some Registered Organisations perhaps expanding the role of volunteers on commercial excavations. This is clearly not the full picture and presents an over-simplified account of a complex situation (which would take at least a page to explain in full). The use of volunteers is a slight red herring as IfA has a clear policy concerning the use of volunteers and students on archaeological projects (www.archaeologists.net/codes/ifa), contravention of which would potentially be in breach of the Code of conduct.
However, there is something positive to be said about the article, and the fact it has been published at all. Arguably, there is a real need for media coverage on threats to heritage professionals to start seeing cuts to archaeology provisions in local government, commercial companies and universities as part of one story. Our profession is going through a challenging period, and now is the time to stand united across the sector. Although the article in Private Eye may not be 100% accurate, it does present issues the profession has been facing as part of one overarching issue. As a profession, gaining the support from the public (who care about their local past and its protection) and local Councillors (who should care about what their public think) would be of great benefit. The more we can make people aware that these individual closures and threats across the country are part of the same story, the greater our chance of surviving them.
A full report on the IfA Council decisions regarding salary minima can be found at www.archaeologists.net/IfAsalary2013to14. If you want to be involved in discussions about pay and conditions in archaeology, take part in our forthcoming open forum Valuing the profession, on Friday 19 April at Aston University. If you can’t get to Birmingham, the event will be accessible via the internet, look out for information about how you can participate at www.archaeologists.net/valuingtheprofession.
For more information about the advocacy work IfA undertakes, please visit our webpages at www.archaeologists.net/advocacy/protectingservices.