Digger 1 - 39 (1998 - 2006)
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The Institute of Field Archaeologists - Why Join?
When I first started digging I had absolutely no idea what the IFA was or what it did. From what I could gather fiom conversations with my more experienced peers, they were some mythical entity which wielded a kind of mysterious power, and acted in some way like the Masons, where no-one really knew how to get in or if they did they weren't letting on.. .and whe was I to be asking anyway? To be fair I was young and nalve, but even now I am not entirely sure of the purpose they serve, and if you ask yourselves the same question you may be struggling too. I have a lot of friends who have joined the Institute, and who will sing the praises of the establishment. They point out that by joining they are proving themselves to be of an acceptable standard in order to undertake certain work, and anyway the extra letters after your name look good, don't they? My personal problem with this is that I have worked for quite a long time as a digger, I have a long and impressive enough CV, I have gained a lot of skills, and I don't have a lot of problem getting work. So why should I spend 50 a year (plus the 10 non-returnable "application" fee) for little reward? The argument that by joining you are proving yourself to be a far better digger than your non-member compatriot seems ridiculous. I know members who cannot dig for toffee, besides which most, if not all, units will go on quantity of experience rather than membership of the IFA as a selling point ... especially these days where acceptable d i m are baoming a rarer species. Most units will now employ diggers on the back of only a few weeks experience if they are desperate enough, which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing as it means more people get the paid digging experience they deserve, but this just emphasises my point. Why join? Exponents of the IFA will point out that actually the conditions we now fmd ourselves working under are entirely down to the IFA issuing guidelines which units can now follow in order to come under the umbrella title of 'professionals' (to quote their literature, their aims are 'to provide an active professional organisation', and 'to develop professional guidelines7 for field archaeology and some other nice fluffy stuff). As an example, English Heritage and the IFA are at present doing a survey of pay and benefits (e.g. accommodation) in order to attempt to standardise job titles and pay scales as guidelines for units to work by. This is not a bad thing (how can it be?), because the one thing this job needs is some form of professionalism to kick it into the nineties. But the IFA's guidelines are not mandatory - no IFA police will come down heavy on a unit who chooses to bend a few rules and cut a few corners. We all know Here are some of the items that may be appearing in the next issue. A11 comments welcome. The IPMS (archaeology division) -yes, archaeologists do actually have a union. Does anyone actually know what it does and how we can make it workfor us? A league table jor units - (coming over all New Labour for a nzomenl), who are the good units to workfor, who are the bad units to work for and why? Student archaeologists - how do you feel about the job market... can you even get work? Finances: Credit Debit 30.00 Total contributions PO Box number costs 52.00 Printing costs 50.00 Postage costs 25.00 End balance 87.00 'The Digger' is a non-profit making newsletter existing on donations. All donations welcome, payable to 'The Digger'.
only too well what this means... low wages, short contracts and no comeback - no change. The IFA have a big thing about any members (note you have to be a member, this doesn't work on non-members) bringing the profession into disrepute because when you become a member you have to be a 'proper person' and joining has to 'mark a new threshold in an individual's professional development' (I'm not making this up... it is the Masons!). As far as I am aware only one person in its entire history has been brought up in fiont of the council and actually reprimanded. To me, the Institute has now effectively been rendered powerless, if it ever had any power, by the outbreak of 'unsolicited' units on the back of competitive tendering which.it can no longer reign in. All it now seems to exist as is a talking shop between increasingly older members who are in comfortable positions within the profession and who can afford to discuss the higher problems of archaeology in a relaxed and convivial manner without ever having to change very much for those that matter on the ground (if you pardon the pun). So after all this opening build up it may surprise you to know that I am going to join the IFA, and that I think you should too. My reasoning is this. The Institute may be outmoded, out of touch and at present may serve very little purpose, but at present it is the&o thing we have which allows us any form of clout as regards the profession we are in. Whatever we may think of them now, they started up for the same reasons that we are presently fighting for. Apparently, in the past, other opposing groups did start up but they never got anywhere (or things would be better and we would have heard of them), so why not use what actually exists and is firmly established for our own ends? As it stahds at the moment, nothing will change through the IFA because no diggers are joining, and if they do, no one is standing up to the say "e rm... I don't like this... change it, please". They have conferences! We could make lots of noise and really upset the people who actually give us the crap wages, long hours and woefully short ,contracts. By getting large numbers to join to pull weight in l elections, and using the newsletter as a rallying point, we can use our lnumbers to get someone on to council and to push through motions which favour diggers' work conditions. Sub-groups exist in the IFA as regards (for example) finds/environmental staff, so at the very lleast we could push for a sub-group to be formed for us. So that's why I'm joining. I want to make a difference in some way and I think lby doing this I will ... what do I have to lose? (Apart fiom 50 a year.. .of course). It is the only way. tOr is it? What do you think? Are you a member and disagree with 1this writer's point of view? Or is the writer mad to join? Or what? Write in.
The DiggerYes, it's now your chance to participate in our statistically dubious and irreverent league of archaeological units. Just write back to us regarding units you have worked for and each issue we will make some vain attempt to get them into a table as a guide to where to go and where not to go. In six mor,:hs iime h e winning unit's director will receive a Creme egg; the loser a rotten egg. Check out the following points: + wages: above f 190 or below? + pay problems - yes or no? + sick & holiday pay - automatic or conditional? + travel eqenses paid - yes or no? + _;ommodation:free, charged or nonexistent? + provision of equipment - e.g. boots? + length of contract - above a month or below? + level of respect - valued colleague or trowel fodder? Dead easy! Get writing. Also on Lhe subject of reviews...
Issue No. 2, February 1999 PO Box 39 1, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 3GSt
: w e n t training situation and how it might ,e improved. f you would like to volunteer to be nterviewed in confidence as part of the ,eview, please contact the AFT'S consultant ~t the address below and let her know when md how she can get in touch with YOU. nterviews are usually conducted by phone )U[, K you prefer, you can fill in a luestiomaire (available either from 'The ligger' or from the address below). Or ;imply write with your views. AI1 records of nterviews and comments of respondents .emain anonymous. four contribution to the training review will )e appreciated, and is a chance to make ~ractical suggestions and add some iubslance to the case for change in the way .hat Lrai~ngand career development are xganised in archaeology. Sill Chitty, Hawkshead Archaeology and Conservation, Hawkshead Home Farm, Highfield Lane, Bolton le Sands, Carnforth, Lancashire LA5 8AE
Carlisle Archaeology Unit are to be aken over by Bradford University in iugust. What effect this will have on the vages and work conditions of the unit staff lnce they are no longer council run is .nyone1sguess. A meeting will be held with tafT in March.
Winnersh Farm, Reading One bog for thirty people Morning time bad Zen. Fobney street, Reading Curl one down in the river No Elsan on site. Hampton Court Palace Trowelling gravel four weeks Finding nothing there. Wine stained through T-shlrt Chop stripped down, oil in grill pan Road kill and rank feet. Soaked through the bone, Slithering through wet clay. God let's get wasted. Project Officer Hot on the tails of female Student volunteers.
The Archaeology Training Forum is a delegate body which represents all those organisations which have an interest in the issues of training and career development + A joint IFNEH survey of archaeological within archaeology. The Forum has recently employment, Projlrng the Profession, will conmussioned a review of current training be published shortly, and a summary will haeology and is looking at how appear in The Archaeologist (the F A mag) in promlon should be developed in the future and will also be accessible via F A , CBA and at particular areas of need. Part of the and EH websites. If like me you have accen review has included interviews with a to none of Lhese (!), you will be pleased tc sample of archaeologists, drawn from the hear that the author, Kenneth Aitchison o: membership of professional groups, to seek Landward Archaeology, will be writing ar their personal views and record thei~ article on it for us, on its publication. experience of training. A nunlber 01 + The next F A conference is in Glasgon respondents have commented 011 t