Why I’m fighting for better pay for archaeologists

Kate Faccia is an archaeologist with Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA). She explains why she’s taking action against poor pay.

Kate at work on a construction site.

My name is Kate, and I’m a field archaeologist with Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA).  I’m one of the people that you see on construction sites, excavating before a development is built.

I love my job, and I’m proud of what I do.  I work with an amazing group of colleagues, and we all care deeply about discovering, documenting, and understanding London’s history before a building or road takes its place.

The work that we all do at MOLA contributes to understanding our shared history in London and beyond, and I believe that matters a lot, as it helps us understand where we come from and who we are today.

I’m striking because of the low pay that we receive for our jobs.  From the field team to specialists to project managers and beyond, we are paid very little when compared with similar-level jobs in the construction industry.

In fact, we have office and field-based staff that are considered leading experts in the field, but this is far from reflected in what they’re paid, nor the credit they receive. In the field team itself, I don’t know of anyone who has been hired lately who hasn’t earned at least one university degree, and who doesn’t have relevant field training and experience. Yet we’re often paid less than most, if not all, other staff on site.

Struggling to make ends meet

My colleagues and I struggle to live in London. To try to make ends meet, I live in guardian properties, which are basically disused buildings due to be torn down and redeveloped. This means I pay less rent, but I trade off housing stability and a number of tenants’ rights in the process.

I still have to budget strictly to be able to afford to eat through the month and pay to get to work. It’s tight, all the time. And I know several colleagues who can’t make ends meet, and that’s disgraceful.

It must be nice to be able to live comfortably in London: to be able to afford living in a stable housing situation; to be able to afford to eat for the month; to know you can afford a plane ticket home at the holidays; to know you can afford to have a family if you want one.

These are some of the struggles that my colleagues and I face, trying to live and work in London, doing a job that we believe brings value to our city.  MOLA  have imposed a 2.5% pay award this year, saying it should cover the cost of inflation, but how is this enough when we already struggle? 

And, without a pay progression system in place, there’s no way to earn a better salary, even if your experience merits it.  Meanwhile, those in the highest positions at MOLA earn up to five times what we, on the lowest salaries, make, with recent pay awards that are, as yet, undisclosed.

I hope that we, at MOLA, are eventually recognised by our company for our skills, experience, and expertise, as well as for the contributions that we make to the heritage sector.  I hope that our pay will reflect our value, at the company, as well as in the construction and heritage sectors. And, I hope that, one day, our work will allow us to live comfortably in London, too.

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