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I'm in a fixed term contract and enjoy my work. The problem is that I took on this role right after being made redundant from a previous job right around Christmas time when no one was hiring. Realising my desperation I was offered a very below average pay.

My plan was to stay around for about 6 months and look for another job when the market picked up.

However as I said I have grown very fond of this place and the work and would love to stay. The consulting firm that sent me took advantage of two others who were fresh arrivals to this country from overseas and needed local experience and did the same to them, sent them here with very low pay. I feel if I complete my 12 month contract it is unlikely they will offer a raise considering they were willing to pay almost half the market value in the first place.

I am bringing a lot of value to the client already and they are happy with me. I can't apply directly to them due to clauses in the contract that stop me from seeking direct employment with them (not to mention they might not want to harm their relationship with the consulting company). It is also a concern that there are two others in the same boat and any special treatment I might get may cause resentment.

However I am living in hardship because of this.

Is there a way to salvage this situation? What might be a good way forward? Is it appropriate to bring this up with the client and ask them to hook me up with one of their other contracting agencies that they already use?

  • " I can't apply directly to them due to clauses in the contract that stop me from seeking direct employment with them" vs "Is it appropriate to bring this up with the client and ask them to hook me up with one of their other contracting agencies that they already use" > if the contract is well done, and with recruiting agencies it generally is, the non-competition clause probably cover both direct and indirect work for that company for a specified timeframe. For these agencies, you working through one of their competitors is even worse than you working directly with the client... – Laurent S. Sep 19 '18 at 12:09
1

The consulting firm that sent me took advantage of two others ...

I feel if I complete my 12 month contract it is unlikely they will offer a raise considering they were willing to pay almost half the market value in the first place

I feel if I complete my 12 month contract it is unlikely they will offer a raise

So, you are not a permanent employee, but, rather, are employed by a company that “rents you out” to a third party where you are very happy to work, and who are happy with you.

There are several possible approaches here.

My first step, in your place, would be to check my contract for a non-compete clause. If there is none, then finishing out the contract and immediately starting with the client is a distinct possibility (even telling the agency that you are in talks to do so is a strong bargaining chip).

If that is not possible, the your best, possibly only, tactic would seem to be to leave, or, at least, to threaten to.

Since you say

I am bringing a lot of value to the client already and they are happy with me

You are in a position of some strength.

The same thing happened on my first contract in America, where I was bound to the agency by my H1 employment visa.

After I had worked there for a few months, and my boss was happy with me, he took me to one side and said “I don’t know what your agency is paying you, not do I want to know, but here is their invoice to me”. They were taking 45% off the top, where 12 to 15% Is the norm, and I have had one agent who took 6%.

I told my boss that they were taking 45% and he said “let me have a little word with them”. The gist of his “little word” was that they very much liked my work, they felt I was underpaid, they were willing to offer me a position if I had to go to another country to wait out the non-compete clause, but if it came to that, the client would be unhappy with the agency, which might affect future hiring from them.

The agency gritted it's teeth and decided it had no objection to me transferring to the client at the end of my current contract. I got a large rise and took my boss and his wife out to dinner, then took the whole team to lunch :-)

Even if your boss won’t talk to them for you, you might be able to get the message across to the agency that you are unhappy with your pay and considering leaving, which would not please the client if they heard about about; especially when they heard the reason.

You could even just try "look, guys, you made a lot out of me in the first year, how about taking less of a cut, rather than zer0 if I leave?".

In the very worst case, talk to a lawyer about the enforceability of any non-compete clause.

1

Simply ask in private

Asking for a pay raise looks difficult in most situations. But not all employers think of people as replaceable devices. As someone that have been underpaid before, and lacking experience, I simply went away in the middle of a fixed term contract only to discover my employer liked me much and could offer me a 25% raise if I stayed (which I had to refuse).

You know the market price, and so does your employer. Ask for a private meeting and simply ask if there is budget for raising your salary because you are objectively underpaid. Be prepared to give a number.

You don't need to argue anything more. The tacit implication is that if your employer refuses to raise your wage, you are likely to leave for a better opportunity without any prior warning, and if he does can hope to keep you. This should help you find correct figures.

0

Short answer

You are not in a strong negotiating position. All negotiations begin with giving something to get something. What do you have to give in order to gain?

Longer answer

  1. Immediately look for other job opportunities. If you cannot walk away from this job, then you are not negotiating, you are complaining.
  2. Mention to your customer that you'd like to continue working with them as an employee. Get an idea if they want that relationship and if it would be for terms that you can accept. Tell them you are prohibited from this relationship unless your currently employer (consulting firm) releases you from your contract.
  3. Approach your current consulting firm and announce that you'd like a full time position at the customer. Ask them under what terms they'd allow this to happen. Typically, I have signed agreements with buy-out clauses. The consulting company accepts a one-time fee for releasing me from the contract, enabling me to negotiate directly with the customer. Find out if this would be an acceptable approach.
  4. Once you've gotten both parties to agree that it is possible, now it is down to the details. Figure out in an open conversation with each party separately (consulting firm / customer) what it would take. Consider the offers that each make and decide if it is to your benefit in the long-term and short-term. Evaluate the socially, economically, and career impact.

The ultimatum

The ultimate negotiation tactic is walking away. If you can accept walking away from this situation and being employed elsewhere (at whatever is available), then you can rationally negotiate. You don't need another offer in hand and if you had one, I wouldn't bring it into the negotiation. You are the best judge of your comfort level in leaving this job.

If you can't walk away, they'll know your bluffing and have no incentive to negotiate.

Am I proposing something nasty?

Please don't think of my advice as a powerplay. It is intended to express the interaction in capitalistic / economic terms.

You are:

  • Expressing your preference
  • Proposing a mutually beneficial solution, because the alternative is finding a job elsewhere where presumable your customer loses because they don't have you and the employer loses because they don't get revenue from your next job.
  • The customer must want you as an employee
  • The employer must want some money (buy-out) rather than nothing (you leave)

If you have all these ingredients, you've done what you can and the decision is in the hands of other people. Await the decision and then act.

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First thing IMHO, you should check validity of non-compete clause in the contract. It may be, depending on your location, null and void clause. But lawyer with expertise in employment laws needed

Edit: Answer is: find a lawyer and check validity of non-compete clause

Edit2: Usually these contracts have a clause, stating that if any of the clauses are or become illegal or unenforceable it does not nullify the contract itself.

But what you wrote already answered your own question, consulting firm cannot stop / sue you for approaching the customer for local permanent position

  • I agree, but this is a comment, not an answer. – Jim Clay Sep 19 '18 at 21:37
  • The thing is, the contract is a copy/paste from another country (the country the consulting firm originates from) and there are several points in it that would not be enforcable in this country. I realised this when I first read it but signed it anyway knowing it would never hold up. I obviously didn't tell them as it would have been to no benefit to me. The non compete is vague and incomplete to say the least. And as mentioned there are clauses which are by our laws illegal which probably makes the whole contract useless. – solarflare Sep 19 '18 at 23:11

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