Abolition of CIFA Pay Minima: Rescue Says

RESCUE believes that archaeology represents a worthwhile and rewarding career option which should be open to everyone in the UK. However, pay and conditions in archaeology typically fall short of those in comparable occupations and professions, and there is a marked and well-known disparity in pay between field staff and those in the construction and civil engineering sectors or in the fees chargeable by specialists. Arguments both for and against pay minima have circulated for some time now, with some voices suggesting that they actually undervalue the archaeological profession and prevent wages from rising in accordance with supply and demand and other market forces, whilst others contend that they protect what is essentially a poorly-paid workforce from the further devaluation of their income as businesses inevitably undercut one another in a cut-throat marketplace. Perhaps at the root of the debate is the fact that these minima have provided a welcome and valued safety net for many, particularly those at the lower end of the profession who need the most protection. The recent announcement by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) regarding their removal will leave many in the profession looking nervously at the future of the archaeological jobs market and the terms and conditions their (and other) employers might bring forward.


 RESCUE looks to the profession’s relevant representative bodies, principally CIfA and the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers (FAME), to continue to take active steps to ensure that archaeologists are not disadvantaged in terms of pay or conditions and that these reflect the very high level of qualification and practical experience typically represented in the archaeological workforce. We were particularly disappointed to note in CIfA’s original announcement that whilst “For several years CIfA board of Directors has prioritised finding an alternative and improved mechanism to the unilateral issuing of minimum salary recommendations”, no viable alternative was proposed, and we welcome the subsequent (if vague) communications outlining plans for “salary benchmarking” that have been set out as a result of concerns raised in the immediate aftermath of their announcement. However the hiatus in implementing this proposal will undoubtedly cause anxiety amongst the workforce. There should not be a ’race to the bottom’ where wages are concerned and we urge both CIfA and FAME to consider and address the negative impact the current situation is likely to have on the profession and the archaeological jobs market with some urgency.

 RESCUE’s position on this issue is stated clearly in our policy. We believe in fair contracts of employment for all staff, the abolition of zero hours contracts and encouragement of the use of longer term contracts, enhanced staff benefits and crucially, pay levels that will enable those at the lower end of the archaeological pay hierarchy decent and sustainable standards of family life. It is difficult to see this being achieved with purely market forces, but it should be recognised by archaeologists that there may be an opportunity in this apparently unsettling situation for the workforce to now wrest the argument on pay and conditions away from the managers and legislators. We would urge members of the profession at all levels to join and engage more actively with the relevant trades unions: history suggests that workforce collective bargaining is one of the most effective methods for maintaining and enhancing pay and conditions – perhaps now is the time to grasp this.

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