Support For Workers in Commercial Archaeology
Sent to our members today.
Dear FAME members,
Overload of emails I know, but we are living in interesting times.
I have received a message today from Andy Bye, Prospect Negotiations Officer for Heritage, Law and Energy.
FAME have met with Prospect and discussed the message (which is below), and I feel that it is important that all of our members see it.
At this critical time, we have agreed to work with Prospect to lobby government to ensure that archaeologists are safe at work.
I would like to foreground the message from Prospect with three additional key points –
- The concern, and priority, is for peoples’ safety. The priority is not to see everything shut down, but to ensure safety for people at work.
- Where work is pausing, there are sites that will need to be safely closed down – safely in all senses of the word – and so they cannot be abandoned without this work taking place.
- Not all FAME member companies are stopping all site work; where work can continue safely, work is continuing – and some are working on implementing measures that will allow them to come out of safety shutdown.
If you cannot afford to pay your employees redundancy pay you can apply to the Redundancy Payments Service (RPS) for financial assistance. If approved, the RPS will make statutory redundancy payments directly to redundant employees on an employer’s behalf.
We are updating our website with more information such as this as we become aware of it.
I am writing following our exchanges yesterday and the Prime Ministers announcement last night.
I have already heard that a number of employers have already decided to shut down their site work. I assume that all commercial archaeology employers will now be taking urgent steps to cease site work and to facilitate, where possible, homeworking.
Prospect will be engaging directly with those employers that formally recognise us with respect to the closedown and the implications for our members. We will be seeking important commitments from such employers to ensure that they make full use of the support mechanisms that the Government is putting in place so that they can continue to pay salaries and wages to all staff who cannot work due to COVID-19.
We hope that this will then provide some reassurance in relation to maintaining income for many of our members who cannot work. However, a significant proportion of our members work for employers that do not recognise Prospect. We cannot ignore those members at this very difficult time and I hope that you will pass a copy of this email on to all FAME member organisations.
In order to protect everyone working in commercial archaeology it is vital that everything possible is done to ensure that the industry is best placed to survive and then recover once the current crisis is over. These important aims will only be achieved if all employers act to protect their staff from major financial hardship.
We accept that for some archaeology employers paying staff who cannot work will be a significant financial challenge. You will recall that at recent Industry Working Group meetings we have highlighted the cash flow problems experienced by many companies, where payment for completed work is often delayed. In many cases companies will have limited reserves to call on.
Unfortunately it is not yet possible for employers to apply for support from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme that was launched at the end of last week. The detail of the scheme is not yet available and it may take time for the Government’s other support mechanisms for businesses to have an impact. However, support has been pledged by the Government and we believe that all employers should make full use of that support in order to assist their staff.
Where employers with low margins will have difficulties obtaining or repaying loans, Prospect, through the TUC, is asking the Government to consider debt cancellation in the medium term. Clearly, without such arrangements being in place, for some employers there is a danger that support given today simply delays, rather than removes, the threat of job losses and business collapse. We hope that FAME will join us in publicly pressing the Government to take action on this point.
We also take the view that there is a real need to ensure that the support provided by employers covers freelancers and staff on fixed term contracts, especially where contracts are of a short-term nature. A significant number of those working in archaeology will not be covered by current support mechanisms Again, Prospect has been working closely with the TUC to urge the Government to extend the support it is offering to this group of workers. We hope that FAME will add its voice to the call for urgent support all workers, not just those with permanent contracts of employment.
We are now urging that all employers to engage with Prospect to ensure that all archaeology workers are protected during the current crisis. We will be encouraging everyone to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives, but we also wish to ensure that everyone is protected from the serious financial difficulties that will now arise. Accordingly through FAME, and as I have outlined here, we are calling on all archaeology employers to do everything possible so that all workers can continue to be paid.
We will be happy to meet with FAME and other interested parties online to discuss how commercial archaeology will respond to the current difficulties in order to protect all archaeology workers.
Heritage, Law and Energy
Prospect, New Prospect House, 8 Leake Street, London SE1 7NN