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Profit and Archaeology
Don't see anything wrong with making as much money out of projects as possible (with the usual "maintaining standards" provisos). The hand wringing "what level of profit is acceptable" debate or the immorality of making a profit argument seems to me to ignore the reality that only through making decent profits (and yes, through also having a decent employer) do staff receive the types of benefits available in other professions/industries, e.g. terms and conditions inclusive of decent pay levels, training, active H and S policies, bonuses etc.

Obviously there is a level of archaeological cost beyond which developers will refuse, but I'd suggest that it is much higher than they are often currently charged.

Happiness depends on ourselves.
Quote:quote:Originally posted by gorilla

Surely if we wanted to profit from archaeology... we should have become the tombraiders we abhor, and not had bothered with all that education and mud-buddy stuff to become the archaeologists aspire to be (or already are).

I disagree with this I'm afraid. Working profitably isn't automatically about expliotation of anyone or about not undertaking our work in a professional way.

I have worked for (and run) organisations which rewarded effective and innovative ideas and paid bonuses, increased training opportunities etc in the years when the team managed to be effective enough to have spare cash available at the end of the year (profit in other words).

You could also take the point of view that the undercutting 'antics' that many people complain of here are less likely to happen if there are incentives to all staff make a profit!

(And for those of us regarding this from the 'Trot' point of view, if you are an employee - is it wrong to earn more than what you need for basic survival? Surely that's a 'profit'?)
Quote:quote: I found what appeared to be a spot-on article entitled Private Sector Archaeology(Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?)- I've found that I have to pay $25 to see it. Since when did it become ok for knowledge (or rather access to it) to have a price? Should eveything have a price?

You could always try finding it in a library, lots of university ones have subscriptions for online resources. Is it about the American private secotr, in any case?

I'm all for profit; making a profit is what a professional company is supposed to do. The question is what to do with the profit, which really depends on how the company is structured and run. making profit gives the stability for all the things mentioned by the host and geodan. My partner's company has quarterly profit-based bonuses,though not much last quarter, as there was little profit.

It is worth noting that at least one archaology company, LG, is a co-operative.
Originally posted by gorilla

Surely if we wanted to profit from archaeology... we should have become the tombraiders we abhor, and not had bothered with all that education and mud-buddy stuff to become the archaeologists aspire to be (or already are).


I disagree with this I'm afraid. Working profitably isn't automatically about expliotation of anyone or about not undertaking our work in a professional way.

I'm glad you disagree... because I wanted someone to disagree! Because at the root of it all we, as archaeologists, are responsible for ourselves and the archaeology we record. We should [u]all</u> aim (strive?) to work profitably and undertake any work in a professional way. Don't get me wrong... I love profit! I'd like some right this minute (show me the moneY). It's just I think most (not all) of us should be fully recompensed for the hard work we put in, the hours of education we undertake and the conditions we often endure. Staff (particularly the lower eschelons) should be treated fairly and given due reward. This doesn't necessarily involve financial reward... sometimes it would have been good enough to receive a "thanks and really well done for all your hard work". Often, I have found that companies have been quick to criticise and slow to praise. "If things go wrong, its not our (managerial) fault, 'tis our lay-about.. and expendible... workforce". (yep, heard that one... many years ago I admit). I have worked for companies where thay value their staff, provide training, benefits and even gave out bonuses. How many of them are there compared to those that take the p*ss? 50/50? 60/40? Whatever... it should be across the board, 100% or what's the point?

Also whatever financial profit there is should be spread across the board and ,possibly, invested wisely (not just in times of boom). If the company is doing well, then it's great if everyone gets a cut. But what about those times (ie now) when it ain't so great? Staff being laid off while the directors get a bonus isn't limited to the world of high finance (seen that one).

Field archaeology can be an immensely satisfying and challenging job, and many put up with the poor situation that they find themselves in because of their love for the work. But this proves intolerable for some, who leave archaeology, disillusioned and disappointed, before they feel it is too late to begin to forge a new career outside the field. The profession is then only able to survive because there is a constant 'crop' of enthusiastic young diggers replacing them, who will, in their turn, be frustrated by the lack of opportunities and poor financial rewards and ultimately be forced to abandon their career in archaeology.

We need change. We deserve a regulatory body that is responsible and answerable to us all and actually has our best interests at heart, from the bottom up. We deserve a regulatory body that isn't afraid to rightly castigate wrong-doers and mavericks (and stick to it). If they can't follow the rules, they don't get the work. We deserve a regulatory body that actually acts, available and affordable for all levels of archaeologist. The fees are just ridculous, particularly for those lower grades. The IFA is top-heavy and is only truly representative of senior levels.

Suggestions of equitable scales of pay to comparable industries is fine... but that is all they are... suggestions. Suggestions that have been bandied around for years and years: 1996 - see

...and it hasn't changed much over time. Just take this description from (2007/:face-thinks:

• Starting salary for a digger as a site assistant is £13,700 – £15,500 (salary data July 07).
• Salary at more senior levels with experience (e.g. after 10-15 years in the role) depends upon the post held and the employer. University academics and archaeologists working for national bodies such as English Heritage tend to command the highest pay, with contractors and consultants earning less.
• Working conditions, including salary, vary widely depending on the post.
• Posts in local authorities are generally better paid than those in the private sector, but salaries are generally below the average for equivalent level roles in other fields.
• There is a large variation in workplace-related benefits, such as pensions, holiday entitlement and sick leave, depending on the type of employer.
• Both the British Archaeological Jobs Resource (BAJR) and the Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA) have pay scale guidelines which indicate salaries staggered according to the role and the level of responsibility assigned to the archaeologist.
• Low staff turnover means that only a limited number of paid posts are available.
• Average working hours are 37 per week, though this may vary and overtime is common, especially in excavations working to very tight timeframes, such as excavations prior to development.
• Working conditions may vary from an office to a muddy windswept hillside in December.
• Part-time work is possible on-site. Career breaks are rare as there may be no job to return to.
• Temporary contracts are common, with the length dependent on the excavation or project.
• There are equal starting opportunities for men and women. However, there are currently more men in senior positions, reflecting the length of time they have spent in the job.
• Generally, archaeologists have a relaxed dress code and predominantly operate in a low-stress environment. A flexible approach to work and a willingness to travel will increase job prospects.
• There are occasional opportunities for working overseas.

Cynically, I'd add to that...
• Although entry without a degree is possible, it's damn difficult to get anywhere without one.
• If you can't drive, don't bother. Seems the best qualification you can have is not a BA, it's the ability to get from A to B.

I get the impression that one of the problems with many archaeologists is that they seem to feel a sense of shame at enjoying the 'mud-buddy' fun of archaeology while getting paid, as if to say 'well, it's not a real job so I shouldn't really complain about the shocking wages/conditions/contracts/lack of equipment etc.' I would be the first to admit that I work in archaeology because I enjoy it, but I would also like to be able to make a living and not one day have to wake up under a park bench as an OAP because I couldn't afford a pension or any savings.

Dress this up in a 'all profit is morally unacceptable' and 'I never see the managers/directors mucking in with the rest' and it becomes familiarly depressing (or depressingly familiar). How do people think projects get run? There has to be some form of structure. I can't remember many cases of directors/managers getting stuck in on site but I didn't think this was wrong, because I live in the real world. I don't recall it happening that much on sites while I was at university either, it is the way of things. One day I look forward to being too important (or knackered) to sit on the edge of a site and tell other people what to do, while they grumble about me never getting my hands dirty.

Clearly staff being exploited by poor wages while directors swan about in flash cars is as morally objectionable as it is in any profession, but I wouldn't have thought it was a particularly massive problem in archaeology.

However, the notion held by some that we're all brothers and sisters in some sort of egailitarian struggle does have its dangerous side for those attempting to make a living: I was recently asked to quote for a small piece of work only to be told they already had a price half of what I was suggesting. In following this up I gathered that someone is apparently doing archaeological work as a sideline or hobby, which is great for them if they've got something more profitable to fall back on, but a bit rubbish for everyone else.
Gorilla - I hope you never worked on my sites cos if I never said 'thanks' I would be very upset with myself! Until a small child stopped me, I was a field director who worked in the field, with a team of people. It was the team (including me!) that did the work and as a (small) organisation we always tried to give bonuses (sometimes financial, sometimes other things) wherever we could - not least because that way we got them too! It is also true to say, however, that the rest of the team didn't have the company overdraught guaranteed against their home (and therefore risk losing it if the 'cashflow' went pear shaped)!

I agree on the driving, although possibly not quite as strongly as you put it!

Redearth - that's a pain. And not a very helpful situation. I've said before that it usually takes a max of about 3 years for people like that to drop out of the market, but they can drive a lot of good people out of the market in that time.
"It is worth noting that at least one archaology company, LG, is a co-operative."

The Italian commercial archaeological sector is set out in a coopterativa fashion with regional Soprintendenza's keeping an eye on things, with the government controlling most of it and Universities/Institutions mucking in.

I've worked with a couple of them, and the standard of work is very high, but they did seem susceptible to fluctuations in the market place [probably not helped by the huge problem of illegal construction in Italy, due to planning permission sometimes taking 10years Smile ]. From what I gathered, the system seemed to include quite small numbers of people working in a very local scale, each with a vested interest to keep standards high so that work came in. The cost of living in Southern Italy especially is very low compared to Southern England so I'm not sure if, on a larger scale, this system would work here; and presumably it wouldn't stop fierce undercutting on quotes.
Quote:quote:Originally posted by andy.bicket

"It is worth noting that at least one archaology company, LG, is a co-operative."

I always liked to think of myself as a benign dictator, but apparently I'm just an old softy!
Sensibly, of course, companies that treat their staff poorly, pay badly and are generally a bit rubbish should soon become isolated and find it difficult to get staff once word gets round and so eventually all of these things would improve. However, archaeology being what it is I'm sure that there are many people who would work anywhere just to get a job, and of course some people don't have any choice in order to get the necessary experience.

I can't understand why people do carry on working for some companies - if you think they are so rubbish and you reckon you could do a better job why not set up by yourself. That way you've only got yourself to blame. Some of the more dubious organisations seem to rely on a core of seasoned staff and an influx of inexperienced newbies who don't know any better. Part of this problem is a general lack of interest in Universities improving their courses to tell students what to expect - if the IFA really want to make a difference they should be running sessions at unis explaining what you should expect, what is and isn't acceptable etc.

Picture the situation as a result -

Dodgy company: 'and you will count as being self employed'
New employee: 'no I won't because the nice people at the IFA told me you can't do that!'
Dodgy company: 'well, you will be expected to provide your own PPE'
New employee: 'no I won't because the nice people at the IFA told me you should be doing that'
Dodgy company: 'you wages will be 3 bob a week and half a cornish pasty'
New employee: 'no they won't because the nice people at the IFA told me they should be at least £15,000 per annum. In fact, stuff your job' etc etc
Aren't there two separate arguments here?
The first is about how we organise an equitable wage structure, the second about the impact the commercial imperative may have on our methodologies and results.

It all reminds me of the A-level debating point: this house believes that the pursuit of wealth leads to corruption. Responses so far seem to be emphasising the moral implications of an entirely privatised profession. But framing this as an ethical question quickly breaks down into either/or answers (two legs bad, four legs good) unless you're management material (four legs good, two legs better). If its morality you're after can I recommend a priest. Commercial sector archaeology is flawed, but not fatally. The goal must be to build a knowledge-generating framework from a wealth-generating foundation. It's a question of what we want archaeology to do - whether society wants archaeology to live up to its potential, providing a unique commentary from afar as a transformative force in the present. This brings us back to the way the commercial imperative influences the quality of our method and results. For all those moralists out there, I'll simply ask: can a tender document really be evil?

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