Archaeologists to down trowels at medieval site in Dublin over pay claim

Trade union says company is ‘digging a hole for itself’ by allegedly failing to engage in wage talks

Commercial archaeologists investigating medieval remains on a site in Dublin will down tools on Thursday in a dispute over low pay.

Trade union Unite, which represents commercial archaeologists in Ireland, said its members working for the consultancy IAC Archaeology will be taking further strike action against the company.

Notice of the action, which was served on Wednesday, follows a 24-hour strike last week at the N22 Macroom bypass scheme. It will involve a 24-hour stoppage of archaeological works being carried out on Aungier Street, a union spokesman said.

In June, Unite members working for IAC voted to take strike action on foot of what they claim is the company's refusal to engage with the union regarding a pay claim, either directly or through the Workplace Relations Commission.


Regional co-ordinating officer Richie Browne said by refusing to engage collectively with the archaeologists who had built up the company, IAC was "digging a hole for itself".

“Unite represents archaeologists working on a number of IAC projects, and these actions will continue until IAC moves to resolve this dispute engaging collectively with their workers through their union Unite,”Mr Browne said.

“IAC operates in the Republic, Northern Ireland and England and its revenue is growing at approximately 20 per cent per annum.

“Yet qualified archaeologists working for the company can expect to earn as little as €12.50 – only slightly above the new living wage rate of €11.90 per hour,” Mr Browne added.

Chair of the union’s archaeological branch Jean O’Dowd said: “On Thursday July 19th, archaeologists investigating medieval remains on Aungier Street will be forced to down trowels to force their employer to join the 21st century and negotiate collectively with them through the union of their choice.

“Our members have been heartened by the support they have received from across the archaeological profession, not only here but in England where IAC also operates,” she said.

Ms O’Dowd said the archaeologists would continue what they describe as their ‘Dig 4 Decency’ until the company recognised “that those who excavate the past deserve to be treated decently in the present”.

In a statement, IAC said it dealt directly with staff on contractual matters.

“Earlier this spring, the trade union Unite circulated a letter throughout the commercial archaeology sector, seeking additional increases in pay/rates,” it added.

“IAC have been offering salary packages on projects, including our site at Aungier Street, at, or up to 4 per cent above those rates. IAC communicated this position to the WRC on the 11th May this year.”

In that letter, the company said it had “consistently made efforts to improve our staff’s pay and conditions in response to the recovery in demand for archaeological services and line with what the company can afford”.

“To this end we have increased pay to our staff by up to 65 per cent over the last four years.”