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Unions in Archaeology (Pt 1)
I personally feel that Prospect's treatment of the sector has been poor over the past few years, but this isn't to do with individuals - its more to do with the dynamics I spoke about in the previous post. Its time to change that. As the financial restrictions across the industry become more apparent and should they appear to be in place for the long haul as everyone seems to expect, the greater the demands on the union. If they are non-responsive they will lose members and quite possibly entire branches where they exist. I have heard the suggestion that there is an economic necessity for unions to fully and adequately represent members - members mean income and collectivised power and that is all important at present, not just within industries but across populations.

kevin wooldridge Wrote:Well hopefully Prospect will start by asking members of the Archaeologists branch - me for example - what they think and whether they want to be more involved otherwise the whole exercise would appear to be futile....

Go on then.......
Over ten years ago I joined a union in the hope that some change may be on the cards. I was taken in by the overtures of the union who agreed that archaeologists were marginalised, un-represented and suffered from working conditions not seen since the 19th century. The same union pledged to become a voice for archaeologists and urged that we join them en masse. Quite a few of us did just that. Today, nothing tangible has changed. From being marginalised and unheard by employers in the nineties, we now seem to be marginalised and unheard by the union itself. Actually, "unheard" is not accurate-ignored is closer to the truth. In recent times an eminent representative of the heritage industry stood up at conference and asked the Union to campaign on our behalf. The lady was informed that it would simply cost too much money. This, despite the fact that the vast majority of income that the union commands is spent on Union employees` salaries. It would seem that in this case at least-unfulfilled promises over at least a decade are compounded by a perception that Union subscription is just another job creation scheme for Union staff.

The big view for me then is that we have been taken for a ride by the Union as an entity. That said-on a local scale, Union Reps have been doing some admirable work on the ground. Unfortunately, Union Reps can only achieve goals when they have the support of the Union grown-ups and that has not always been forthcoming in effective ways. I continue to pay my Union subs because I have faith in my local Reps but......I am getting increasingly sick of reading yet another Union newsletter stuffed full of the work the Union is doing for other professions with not a single syllable printed about archaeology. Before you say that I should get more involved and that Unions are all about workers getting together etc.......I didn`t join a Union to fight a Union. :face-rain:
I think many people would recognise that as a fairly accurate account of how most organisations in archaeology have behaved over the past decade or two. The unions have, at times been very good at assisting members on the ground through the dedication of reps but have singularly failed to achieve any form of consensus or gain on the bigger issues for the reasons I've stated in a previous post - there are not enought paid up archaeologists to make them listen and invest.

It is up to all organisations (unions, IfA, any other organisation) to clearly state what they want to do and how they intend to achieve it. If they can't do that, whatever the reason may be, then they don't deserve our support and we would be better off investing in a different form of representation. But I think that, as it stands at present, the facilities and mechanisms are in place within unions which could assist all of us in pushing forward issues like pay, conditions and treatment of staff. I don't think its wise to write that option off while it seems to be one front still worthy of pursuit, although the basic provision of services by unions is what subs are designed to pay for and I suspect they would suggest that they are fulfilling their obligations to members by providing those services on the ground.

With all that said, any advance on our current position is only going to come with cooperation and support through a number of organisations including unions, the Diggers' Forum, the IfA and BAJR. All of these fulfill different (sometimes subtly different) roles within the industry and do different things on behalf of different groups of people. To get them working effectively they need to link up on key issues, achieve a consensus and then use their different outlets and points of leverage to push through changes, as I'm sure has already been identified.

troll Wrote:I continue to pay my Union subs because I have faith in my local Reps but......I am getting increasingly sick of reading yet another Union newsletter stuffed full of the work the Union is doing for other professions with not a single syllable printed about archaeology.

There's only one reason unions can achieve those things and fund those campaigns in other areas: because they have a considerable level of membership across an industry and can legitimately speak on behalf of that industry's staff. It is not simply about the money involved, its also about the realistic achievability of any union campaign or agenda and that hinges on the numbers. Importantly, I don't think archaeology really needs a large amount of money spent by a union on a campaign, we work in one of the best networked industries around, perhaps by virtue of the lack of security and necessity to know people. Unions do need people who understand how this business works and the ability to identify and formulate informed, realistic and achievable aims.
well networked people can achieve change? - 26/3/2011 - do at least this - March For The Alternative
Well networked people can communicate.

I'll be there and I'm telling other people.

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