BAJR Federation Archaeology

Full Version: An opportunity for expansionist units
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Have to take your word for it, I only seemed to get to see scenic bits like the M11 and Stanstead airport, and scenic Braintree.....and quite a lot of time inside The Cock in Rayne/Raine/however it's spelt, okish except for the kareoke nights :0

People were ok though - yes, I probably worked with lots of the same ones (possibly even you), good crew :face-kiss:
Whats the problem? They should be glad to get rid of the stupid council rules which hold them back. The Essex CC will be the losers for I assume they have been working as a commercial enterprise bringing money in to the council. If not why not, and who has allowed them to continue working at a loss?

As archaeologists we should be pleased to see the demise of council excavation teams they have no reason to exist since the introduction of PPG15/16. Anyone who claims anything else is living in a fantasy world.
you forgot this :face-stir:
I think he will need more than one :face-stir::face-stir::face-stir:

Blimey... don't hold back Timber. Council Excavation teams - they are a bit anachronistic.. but are they wrong. ? What intersted me is that commercial units within Universities and Councils have almost all been shrugged off... because they are not making enough.. makes you wonder about all the other commercial companies? Why should they be different. Mega Units... I am still in two minds... stability? wage structure? career progression? Hmmmmmm

But can it make money?
I'm not actually seeing a huge problem with any of this (you and me against the world, Timber!). Yes certainly there are the arguments for local/regional units, with their local knowledge and expertise and so on, but I see that as a separate issue. Since PPG16 that is not the way it works, whether that is is right or wrong is not the point here, that is the system. Within the existing system, council units are indeed an anachronism, at worst subject to accusations of unfair trading - copping jobs from their buddies in curatorial hats next door, and not having truly commercial overheads. Again, whether these accusations are justified or not is irrelevant: the justice of the thing not only has to be done, it must be seen to be done. Nor is any of this peculair to archaeology: many years ago councils were privatising/flooging off architect's departments for example (Essex architects were sold off to Atkins donkeys years ago). School dinners and dustbin collections are generally privatised (even if the tender is miraculously won by the council's service). These latter two examples are probably more logically and usefully kept within the publioc sector than commercial archaeological activities.

Nor am I totally convinced that "expansionism" is necessarily a totally bad thing. It strikes me as an inevitable consequence of the commercial archaeology industry/profession (as you prefer) coming of age. Rather than a couple of evil empires hoovering (or perhaps Dysoning...) up all the work, with a wicked cackle and much twirling of moustaches, I imagine a more likely scenario is that they become capable of taking on much larger mega-projects (indeed, that is largely their raison d'etre) and losing interest in smaller jobs. Medium and smaller outfits continue to thrive on smaller and more 'local' projects - it's a case of horses for courses. Again, this is is the case in other industries. There is a range of sizes of construction firms, for example, from those building airports and Scottish parliament buildings to those doing sub-100, 000 pound jobs (and I'm not even counting local jobbing builders doing kitchen extensions). Professionally, architects range from firms of several hundred staff, in numerous offices possibly in several countries, down to one and two person bands. Thus the market is covered and there's something for everyone. I see no cause for alarm as commercial archaeology joins the real world.

Of course, this recession thing throws a bit of a spanner in the works. Yet again though, I suspect it will affect more than just archaeology and archaeologists. Construction gets similalrly decimated - the big recession of the early 90s lost thousands of skilled tradesmen and specialist subcontractors which have never been adequately replaced.

I believe the following is considered appropriate: :face-stir:
PS Essex is indeed a delightful and picturesque county (no, I am NOT from Essex). The stereotypical image is based on the Thames estuary, much of which lives something to be desired. There is however a lot more of Essex than that.
you stirred me Timber... the "real" world you seem to speak of is ruled by money and greed.

archaeology is a service for the community.

Its value is knowledge. Its product is knowledge. Its goal is knowledge.

were you also glad to see the privatisation of other council services - have they really been improved?
Will you cheer as community services and council structures are incinerated around us over the next few years??

will you tell the Forensic Investigation Unit, "don't worry, commercialism has worked fine for other expert services - competetive tendering will assure us objectuivty and best practice, as well as better working conditions and wages" ???
I tend to agree with Timberwolf and Invisible Man, though perhaps not in such acerbic terms as TW. And I actually work for a local authority unit. As Invisible says, there are a range of different sizes, different companies specialsie in different services, and there is often enough to go around, except in recessions.

The point is, whether a council unit is still in house or privatised, they cannot have their losses supported indefinately. In this sense, they are no different to any other type of corporate structure. They are answerable to council executives, directors, and ultimately to the electorate. The product may be knowledge, but I don't think that taxpayers will want to subsidise that, when the polluter is supposed to pay.

I thought the Forensic Investigation Unit had long since been sold off.

A lot of this 'expansionism' seems to have been smaller local units being saved from bankrupcy, and local people being kept on with local jobs.
Well said Invisible Man and Timber Wolf. I agree with what has been stated about the anachronism that are county field units. I spent five years of my field career in such establishments and witnessed many cosy chats between the county DC archaeologist and the managers of the field section discussing particular projects (all based within the same building) . As a consultant I know clients who dislike this set-up, and I'd like to praise all the Council's out there who farmed out their field units years ago.

The skill sets, experience and abilities of archaeological field staff would be in no way compromised by being separated from thier 'mother' organisation. All they'd be asked to do is compete with other units in what would be a much more level playing field. Although county units do not have a monopoly of local work their lower overheads makes for unfair competition.

Other advantages? - perhaps some of those staff who are less than productive would not be protected by council regulation any more and would be easier let go off under a standard private sector contract. This wouldn't hurt companies ability to be more competitive. At my old Council place of work the useless or disruptive were kept hanging around, being more useless and generally soaking up overheads.

Gnome King - archaeology, in the big scheme of things, isn't a service for the community; it serves those practising it and has an intellectual fringe benefit for that narrow band of the public who express an interest in it. The production and improvement of knowledge will not be impaired by a loss of Council ties. There is little evidence to suggest that those companies which operate fully in the private sector are any worse at producing good output than anyone else. A fair bit of poor product was turned out by my Council unit, partly (and this is just my personal opinion) because of the blase attitude of the staff, who knew that no matter what they churned out they knew their chances of getting the boot was pretty minimal. Private companies have to compete with each other, and there is a bigger onus on delivering good quality reports to win back repeat business from clients. Competition is good for all as people try harder. If a private company is rubbish at what they do; they fail and go under.

I also hope you're not seriously equating the service provided by the Forensic Investigation Unit to the 'importance' of archaeology. Relative to the FIU, archaeology isn't important.
Invisible - is there actually any evidence that the 'mega units' don't grab all the small jobs they can? I've seen that arguement put forward in these pages before, but it's none too apparent from their report-output. I work for a fairly small company but we're quite happy to (and do) do million-pound contracts when they come along, we'll take anything, any size, within the scope of what the firm does, so why should the big boys think any different? Commercially they'd be cutting their own throats - one year there won't be any mega-jobs for them to do, small jobs are the bread-and-butter.... :face-stir:
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