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BRITARCH  December 2001

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Subject:

The Question of Salaries

From:

"Kristian L.R. Pedersen" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 5 Dec 2001 01:30:56 -0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (71 lines)

Dear Subscribers,

                     As most of us here are involved in archaeology professionally, and
rely on the discipline for our salaries, concerns over the pay that is
offered to most of us is naturally a pressing issue. The matter of pay is
particularly pressing because of the tremendous disparity in salaries
between archaeologists and those with comparable qualifications in other
disciplines.

        Before 'direct action' is proposed, however, I believe that it is important
to bear a number of matters in mind. The first is that most archaeologists
are dependent for their job on the existence of legislation; were it not for
PPG16 and other such legislation, the demand for any archaeological work
would be close to nothing. As developers regard archaeology as nothing but a
nuisance, they obviously want to pay as little as possible to see an
archaeologist lingering about their site, and they certainly have only a
limited interest in the reports that ultimately reach their desks. Secondly,
the people that purchase houses are paying a substantial amount already, and
I am certain that none of them are keen on absorbing a price of several
thousand more so that archaeologists might have better pay, or that more of
a site might be excavated. There is a limit to what the consumer is able to
afford, particularly with higher housing prices and the prospect of a
recession on the horizon; equally, there is a limit to the reduction in
profit the developer will accept to satisfy the legislative demands of a
local council. Rather than regard the developers as fundamentally immoral or
mercenary in this matter, one must recall that these people have to pay
their staff, all of whom are financing expensive homes themselves.

        Should a recession occur (and I daresay it looks inevitable now), the
concerns of developers and consumers, as well as the fiscal concerns of
local councils, will always be regarded as more important than archaeology.
This is undoubtedly a particularly unpleasant realisation, because this
means that instead of the situation improving, I see it as probably becoming
even worse. Most people, for better or for worse, regard archaeology as
unessential—they see it as an eccentric hobby, and are surprised that anyone
gets paid for it at all. I suspect that the mandarins making decisions at
high levels also believe this, so when budgets at councils are restricted,
few that think this way would countenance increased salaries for people that
are regarded as unessential members of staff.

        Although there are other matters which make paying for commercial
archaeology less palatable to the public, the developers, and those in the
academic community, I think that the fiscal concerns are the most important,
and govern the present employment climate. At the end of the day, when the
public pays taxes and does not like seeing it 'squandered' (whether it is or
not is irrelevant: it is their perception of it that matters), or
house-buyers feel they are paying several thousand more than necessary, the
local councils and policy makers have a moral obligation to listen to their
views and take them very seriously. It is difficult for those of us that
play with pot-sherds, and lithic debitage to present a rebuttal that would
convince the decision makers.

        If push comes to shove in a recession, and people demand too much for
archaeological work to be undertaken, I would suspect that some very
influential people would make a case for a revision of the current
legislation, if not its abolition altogether. It is difficult to undertake
any 'direct action' that would have the desired effect when no one really
cares about what we do, and a stroke of the pen might abolish 90% of the
profession.

Lugubrious Thoughts,

Kristian L.R. Pedersen
Biblioresearch
49, The Hurn
Digby
Lincolnshire, LN4 3NH
United Kingdom

E-mail: [log in to unmask]
URL: www.biblioresearch.com

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