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Context

I'm a software engineer of above 10 years of experience. I've been working as engineer for a large industrial company A for more than five years. However, my contract is through a small local subcontractor B.

In the day-by-day, I work directly for A and report to A. The only reporting to B is how many hours I do every day by filling a form. I may see my employers at B maybe twice a year, once when I ask them a rise, and my arguments for that rise are probably all they know about what do I do at A, other than the requirements A recruiting department sends to B.

I'd like to work employed by A. My boss at A wants me on A but even if has name and position, is still fighting A recruiting policies (which basically stand to no recruiting). I could get employed by A in the next few months, or maybe in a year or two, or maybe never. Some time before, passing from a subcontractor to A was common, to the point that substituted a regular career in subcontractors. But nowadays it is almost exceptional.

I feel underpaid by B. In the same city I've rejected an offer for 20% higher than my current salary (that's what I think I could do in A but with worse conditions; they were in a hurry, and I wanted to wait for advances from A). I don't want to relocate, but if I did, even in the same country, salaries as reported by employment portals could be around 50% higher.

At B, even latecomers with less experience have got better salaries, boss at B slipped. I've tried to negotiate with B, but they refuse other than symbolic yearly rises (like 1%) by saying A contract with B doesn't demand experienced workers, and must compete for the contract with subcontractor C, D...

The problem at hand

I have found a job offer from B for an undisclosed company in the same city, that raised several flags. Demands my particular skillset (and I'm the only one in my company in this site; although its somewhat common outside), and other basic general requirements that match those of company A. Other coworkers that saw the offer also seem to agree that the offer is for A. And it was published a pair of weeks after a conversation with B regarding the salary issue.

This offer is for a lower salary than mine (even 30% less). They are now requiring no previous working experience (but still ask for expert proficiency on my skillset -lol).

I doubt my boss at A would accept someone other than me, though, even with the skillset as I have proven myself, but it doesn't entirely depend on him.

What is happening?

  • Is B looking for a replacement?
  • Is B preparing an alternative in case I move?

What could be a sensible course of action?

My goal would be to enter A this year or maybe next given a sensible rise from B. Otherwise, get better conditions elsewhere. I cannot accept a relocation at this moment.

  • Bring this offer to my boss at A? Could use this offer to leverage the boss chain upwards? To get in A or at least make them push B?
  • Bring the issue to B without mentioning the offer? Maybe this time I get a salary proposition, or an invitation to move. This will make me gain time, probably.
  • Try my luck with subcontractor C or D? But the subcontractors may have policies against switching employees.
  • 1
    What is happening? - there's a third possibility, other than the two you listed. Your employer has a different position they're trying to fill, that isn't yours. You seem to be jumping to conclusions based on the assumption that they're trying to replace you. That may not be the case. Unfortunately, none of us know. – dwizum Sep 11 at 14:41
  • "I doubt my boss at A would accept someone other than me" - are you sure? – solarflare Sep 13 at 1:45
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Read your contract, make sure you fully understand what changes you are allowed to do and which ones are not (switching to a client, same client through a different sub, etc.)

Your basic situation is problematic. You are an experienced worker. However A feels that the job doesn't require experience (as indicated by the new job offer). So you feel underpaid and they probably feel they already pay too much for the work they need to get done. That's a bad disconnect.

To be clear, that's not about you, but about what A thinks they actually need. It's probably time to have an open conversation with your manager at A. What skills and experience level is really required to do this job. If you can't agree it's a good fit for your level, it's time to move on

  • 1
    I may be reading WAY TOO MUCH into anecdotes, but I've seen a few cases and heard stories of many more where a contracting company is quite willing to substitute subpar workers for cost savings and inflate their resumes accordingly. This is one possible explanation, too, that A isn't paying less but B is looking to replace him and take him off of A. – John Spiegel Sep 11 at 13:03
  • @JohnSpiegel I was that person once. It's not helpful to OP, but this was a huge boost for me career-wise, as I had job responsibilities for someone 2 grades higher than me that I could report on my CV, while the company loved me as I cost them pennies. So I agree, it definitely happens... – Phueal Sep 16 at 4:53
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Everything depends upon the contracts; Your employment contract (with B) and the staffing / outsourcing agreement between A and B. Because we (random strangers on the internet) cannot see either of these, and you only have access to one, the following advice needs to be treated carefully.

TL;DR - Find out exactly what is behinf the problem of moving from B to A, and/or set up a consultancy company of your own and contract yourself out to A.

I'd like to work employed by A.

Good start.

My boss at A wants me on A but even if has name and position, is still fighting A recruiting policies (which basically stand to no recruiting).

Also good. Approach your boss at A, informally initially, and find out how committed they are to keeping you. They can't employ you (headcounts/accounting reasons etc), but they can probably enter into a new outsourcing agreement with an exciting new staffing firm.

Find out if that's possible; Boss A will know who to ask at A.

Some time before, passing from a subcontractor to A was common, to the point that substituted a regular career in subcontractors.

That's good - employees of B move to A, but you already know that the block on this is with A.

And this is where the A/B contract is important; you don't know if moving like this is now prohibitively expensive, or there's some other reason that it now seldom happens. You need to find out what is necessary to make it happen, or to make the independent consultant (via your own company) idea work.

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As the others say, the contracts have a lot tot say about what you or the companies might be able to do so please do review that first. Is it possible to talk freely with your manager at Company A about this? There may be contracts that prevent him from hiring an employee from Company B under many conditions, but there are often ways to pay a fee to the outsource company.

You MIGHT have an option to accept a lower salary at the start from company A so that they can pay off Company B, then bump you up six months later. You'd effectively be buying your freedom. And it sounds like you might be able to do so without taking a cut in the short term so you can get a raise in coming months?

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