This, is, Prato!

Posted: 28/12/2013 in News & Analysis, resistance
Tags: , , , ,

As archaeologist Alessandro d’Amore notes, there has been ‘another collapse at Pompeii [un altro crollo a Pompei]’; and there is ‘growing indignation [crescente indignazione]’ in the profession/the country that the technocratic/austerity administrations are allowing – and, ultimately, causing – this to happen. Putting cultural heritage, workers’ livelihoods and the profession’s sustainability at further risk, the current administration is now trying to consolidate a poor, insecure workforce in order to disguise the cultural workforce’s inadequate funding, staffing and activity.

Note: I don’t speak Italian, so tell me if I’ve got anything wrong (or if you know the details behind my unhelpfully vague reference to ‘certification’)!


‘Pompeii is not just a site of development, protection and conservation, but an emergency [Pompei non è solo un sito da valorizzare, proteggere e conservare, ma è un’emergenza].’ This is especially true because ‘there is not just an archaeological site to maintain, but the image of a region and a nation that shows itself to the world through Pompeii [non c’è solo un sito archeologico da tenere su, ma l’immagine di un territorio e di una nazione che attraverso Pompei si mostra al mondo]’. The image is not good…


All cultural heritage professions jointly campaigned for legal recognition. Participants(?) in the legislative process for Draft Law 362 on Cultural Heritage Professions[‘ Recognition], the Confederation of Italian Archaeologists (CIA) managed to prevent the law excluding non-archaeological workers (which would have been ‘outside European norms and in fact inapplicable [fuori dalla normativa europea e di fatto inapplicabile]’).

However, the Cultural Commission of the Chamber of Deputies subsequently introduced certification into the draft law that was contrary to established professional standards and had not been requested by the professionals.

(If I’ve translated it correctly,) d’Amore is understandably exasperated that, even since the campaign for recognition of the profession, some of the professionals themselves

[are] capable of lamenting that specialists in prehistory should be paid less than others because they do not need to know the written sources, or that archaeologists who do supervision should retire earlier than academics [because of] the strain that this work involves.

[saremmo capaci di lamentarci anche che gli specialisti della preistoria dovrebbero essere retribuiti di meno rispetto agli altri perché non devono conoscere le fonti scritte e che gli archeologi che fanno sorveglianza dovrebbe andare in pensione prima degli accademici per il logorìo che quel lavoro comporta.]

Despite (to spite?) the significant (and hopefully, soon, total) success of the recognition campaign, the profession is still under threat.

Reworked movie poster for 300 (1)

Tonight we dine in hell!

Job options

As Professione Archeologo’s Antonia Falcone and Paola Romi have explained, entering the job market, an archaeologist has limited options in Italy:

1. They continue their academic career, navigate between research grants, renewed or not. It’s difficult to be truly economically independent, [but] by luck there is someone at home who gives them a hand.

2. They try to work for some company or cooperative. They earn little, are repaid with unspeakable deadlines and know that it will probably be difficult to endure for long. Quietly, they begin to devise a plan B: change jobs.

3. They set up a company and make themselves an entrepreneur: they chase customers and payments, fight every day with the bureaucracy and they are unable to work with anyone. All the while, their hair is turning white through the anxiety of not succeeding.

4. They work as a freelancer, they try to take yards [get contracts?] without lowering the rates, but it is difficult. There is always someone who lowers [their prices] and their anger becomes frustration.

[They lead to] dejection and resignation [literally, a wish to give in].(1)

Experienced archaeologists realise that ‘to chase the dream’ of being an archaeologist, ‘[they] have stopped [denied themselves, sacrificed] many things [per inseguire il sogno hai fermato tante cose]’.

On your identity card, it says archaeologist, it is true, but your address is still your parents’ home, your marital status is single or unmarried, your bank account is almost empty and people or institutions or governments owe you money, or they owe you favours, or they owe you scientific data, and you’ll never see any of this.

Sulla carta d’identità c’è scritto archeologo, è vero, ma l’indirizzo è ancora quello di casa dei genitori, lo stato civile è celibe o nubile, il conto in banca è quasi vuoto e persone o istituzioni o amministrazioni ti devono denari, o ti devono favori, o ti devono dati scientifici, e che non vedrai mai niente di tutto questo.

Does the exploitation of 500 interns show the value of culture to Italy?

There is a new (in)opportunity for cultural heritage workers, ValoreCultura. The Ministry of Cultural Goods and Activities and Tourism (MiBACT) is going to employ 500 young trainees/interns (stagisti). But the programme is ‘an insult to the dignity of labour [un insulto alla dignità del lavoro]’, which has caused ‘[h]umiliation, frustration and anger‘.

As archaeologist Sabrina Corarze summarised one of the CIA’s conclusions, ‘[for the politicians] to take no action at all…. would have been an act of honesty in a non-meritocratic society‘. The government/state’s new attempt to deal with the crisis in young professional employment involves the redefinition of all three terms.


As the Confederation (CIA) suggest in an Open Letter to Minister Bray on the 500 Young Interns, the qualification of “youth” for the internship must be ‘written in speech marks,… believing such of 35-year-old men and women is typical of a backward and octogenarian country like Italy [scritto tra virgolette,… ritenere tali, uomini e donne di 35 anni è tipico di un paese arretrato e ottuagenario come l’Italia]’.


In fact, “trainees” should be in speech marks. As d’Amore summarised, as well as graduate qualifications,

the requisite minima are a score of 110 out of 110, an excellent understanding of English, other internship experience and/or 150 hours’ work in that specific sector (development and conservation), being less than 35 years old, and being willing to work full-time for €5,000 per year…. [and] a multiple-choice test.

[i requisiti minimi sono una votazione di 110 su 110, eccellente conoscenza dell’inglese, altre esperienze di tirocinio e/o lavoro dalle 150 ore in su in quello specifico settore (valorizzazione e conservazione), meno di 35 anni ed essere disposti a lavorare a tempo pieno per 5000€ all’anno…. [e] un test a risposte multiple.]

At the same time as the profession is being recognised in law, it is being unrecognised in practice. Qualified, skilled, experienced workers’ talents are being denied to excuse subjecting those workers to poverty and insecurity (to which no-one should be subjected). It is a huge backwards step towards the consolidation of a precarious workforce. So, “professionals” should be in speech marks, too.


The wage – €5,000 a year, €417 a month, €3 (£2) an hour, before tax – is below the poverty line of €500/€600. (And there are no social security contributions.) In fact, in at least some states, the wage is illegally low, and the period of employment as a trainee instead of as a worker is illegally long. So even “employment” should be in speech marks.

Or, the wage was inexcusably low. In order to improve the apparent fairness of the compensation, the requirement of full-time work (~35 hours) was reduced to an expectation of part-time work (~12 hours). In theory, the trainee can get another part-time job to secure a satisfactory income. So now, the wage is only inexcusably low in practice. (And the trainees only do the equivalent of four months’ cultural heritage work across the course of the year, so it doesn’t function as an intensive training programme either.)

Emergency measures to employ experts on trainees’ wages

In fact, the training programme is no training programme at all. Exploiting 500 “trainees” is one of the Ministry’s ’emergency measures [mesure urgenti]’ to fill 600 gaps for cultural heritage workers with ‘expertise and professionalism [competenza e professionalità]’.

D’Amore reiterated one of the anti-precarity protest slogans: ‘We are not asking for resources. We are the resources. [Non chiediamo risorse. Le risorse siamo noi.]’

Professional sit-ins of government ministries

Apart from individuals’ and associations’ (other) protests and (social) media work, on the 20th of December, cultural heritage professionals held a sit-in at the MiBACT, petitioned government/state officials for the ‘immediate withdrawal of the “Announcement of 500 Youths” [ritiro immediato del “Bando dei 500 giovani”]’, and relaunched the national demonstration (manifestazione) of cultural heritage professionals on the 11th of January 2014.

Withhold your labour (if you can)

Echoing what I have said about unpaid labour, Corarze captured the profession’s judgement: ‘The best response would be to abstain [to withhold labour]. [La risposta migliore a questa offerta sarebbe astenersi.]’ Still, people may not have a practical choice. As one friend, who was desperate enough to take a general administrative internship, said (to herself as much as to me), ‘the important thing is to work…. at least it’s work!’

Reworked movie poster for 300 (2)

Prepare for glory!



1. continua la carriera accademica, barcamenandosi tra assegni di ricerca rinnovati o no. Difficile essere davvero indipendenti economicamente, per fortuna a casa c’è qualcuno che gli da una mano.

2. prova a lavorare per qualche società o cooperativa. Guadagna poco, lo pagano con scadenze indicibili e sa che probabilmente sarà difficile resistere a lungo. Sommessamente comincia ad elaborare un piano B: cambiare lavoro.

3. mette su una società e si inventa imprenditore: rincorre committenti e pagamenti, combatte ogni giorno con la burocrazia e se riesce da lavoro a qualcuno. Il tutto mentre gli vengono i capelli bianchi per l’ansia di non farcela.

4. lavora come libero professionista, cerca di prendere cantieri senza abbassare le tariffe, ma è difficile. C’è sempre qualcuno che gioca al ribasso e la sua rabbia diventa frustrazione.

Sconforto e voglia di mollare.


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