Archaeologists dig in at Dublin site over pay claims

Commercial archaeologists investigating a historical site in Dublin downed their trowels in a bid to force their employer to talk to them.

Archaeologists Christina Hughes and Mark Smith on strike in Dublin. Picture: Sam Boal

The union, Unite, represents archaeologists who work for Irish Archaeological Consultancy (IAC). Archaeologists stopped working on a dig on Aungier St in a dispute over pay. The union has warned that further strike action will be taken against IAC.

It follows a 24-hour strike last week at the N22 Macroom Bypass scheme in Co Cork.

The union said most commercial archaeologists did not have permanent, pensionable jobs.

The archaeologists had to work from one short-term contract to another, sometimes being let go at a week’s notice.

Most of the archaeologists are earning €12.50 an hour (€26,000) regardless of their third-level achievements.

IAC describes itself as an award-winning archaeological and built heritage consultancy with offices in Dublin, Waterford, and Belfast.

“We provide a comprehensive range of heritage services to private and public sector clients, both North and South of the border,” it states on its website.

IAC refused an offer of assistance from the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in April.

In a letter to the WRC in May IAC stated that it dealt directly with its staff on contractual matters and was not aware of a dispute with any of its employees.

It referred to another letter circulated throughout the commercial archaeology sector in March by Unite seeking pay increases.

The consultancy said it had been offering salary packages on projects at or up to 4% above the rates sought by the union.

“IAC has consistently made efforts to improve our staff’s pay and conditions in response to the recovery in demand for archaeological services and in line with what the company can afford. To this end, we have increased pay for our staff by up to 65% over the last four years.”

Chair of Unite’s archaeological branch, Jean O’Dowd, said they were looking for a 10% pay increase across three grades — site assistant, supervisor, and director.

The union has served strike notice on all IAC sites.

“It is soul-destroying, to be honest. We are not asking them to come to the table and say yes to everything. We are asking them to come and talk to us to better the profession. We can’t carry on the ways things are,” said Ms O’Dowd.

“We really are astonished that it has come to this. We are now on a second picket line and still the invitation to talk has not been accepted,” she said.

“We will continue to ‘Dig4Decency’ until IAC recognises that those who excavate the past deserve to be treated decently in the future.”


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