June 19th: Contract archaeologists working in Ireland have joined Unite in a bid to improve their terms and conditions of employment. At present site assistants – most of whom have postgraduate degrees in archaeology and related disciplines – earn little more than a Euro above the minimum wage. At their inaugural meeting, members of the new Unite archaeology branch highlighted the need to negotiate a Registered Employment Agreement similar to the agreements governing other occupations which ensure that workers’ terms and conditions cannot fall below a specified floor.
Commenting, Matt Seaver – who was elected chair of the new branch and is the union representative for the Leinster Region – said:
“Site assistants comprise the majority of field archaeologists: they are the ones tasked with excavating and recording our country’s heritage on the ground.
“Yet many site assistants are working for between €9.50 and €10 per hour. At little more than a euro above the Minimum Wage, that is poverty pay.
“Low pay is compounded by job insecurity, with many archaeologists working on short term contracts or as self-employed contractors and others seeing no option but to emigrate”, Mr Seaver pointed out.
Connacht representative Jean O’Dowd said:
“The only weapon workers have against low pay and job insecurity is collective action through a trade union. Unite’s new archaeology branch has already secured recognition in a number of workplaces, and our next challenge is to ensure that all archaeologists in Ireland are covered by an industry-wide Employment Agreement – a threshold of decency”.