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I took a new job three years ago; I was one of the first employees on a new contract, which had unfinished payscales that only specified the "Entry" level pay for each salary band. I was told these would soon be resolved and they would be similar or only marginally worse than the old payscales, which at the time seemed to be a good deal.

In those three years my employer's HR department stopped their payscales grading exercise so I've been trapped on Entry level pay all this time. An increment was recently agreed with the unions but nobody can tell me if this is meant to be the "average" pay for a role, or less than, or more than... I pay my union subs and regularly contact the head of the union for my employer who only ever says they're "working on it", but I understand their position is everybody must be on the old contract and won't discuss the new payscales with my employer.

In the three years I've been here my friends in other businesses and industries (but similar role) salaries have skyrocketed to the £50k - £60k window while I have been trapped in the £35k zone. I would be making £60k quite comfortably right now if I was on my employer's old contract.

Now you might say okay - just find a new job, right? But the issue is that this employer is in the middle of nowhere, there's little other industry, and at the time I moved here I made a commitment, so I mortgaged a house and had kids. I like the area, and I would be sad to leave. I will leave if I have to, because at the moment I feel as if I have been lied to and I am being taken advantage of, which is impacting my mental health.

I have some interviews lined up around the country with salaries comfortably around the £60k mark. If I get an offer from any of these employers, could I negotiate with my employer?

It's a large, byzantine, heavily unionised old engineering company that's been around since the 50s. Everything is rules and processes. At the moment I envision my manager (who I have a VERY good relationship with) agreeing to see if he can put me on the old contract or match my salary, only to be told by HR that they won't budge because there's no formal process to achieve this, and that they could replace me anyway (they can't, Engineering already had a retention problem).

Does Workplace SE think I have any hope? Does anybody have any experience in a similar situation?

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    Sounds like HR has more power than your manager, it usually is not a good sign – bracco23 Aug 6 at 13:47
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    Sounds like your manager is the person to work with on this. Talk to them and see if you can't figure out how to get you onto the pay band that you should be on. – Kaz Aug 6 at 13:48
  • Do they know about your "commitment"? (Personally, I'd have already left, but I also wouldn't make a commitment to the middle of nowhere. In my opinion, the middle of nowhere is only acceptable if you can work remotely.) – Roland Aug 6 at 13:48
  • @Roland They do know, it's a very famous and beautiful part of the UK. People have always moved here for the scenery, and I think they are banking on people accepting a substandard salary for it. – rvukwdvypd Aug 6 at 13:50
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    Slight pay cut for a good living environment, OK. But 35 % below market is crazy. I'd expect such a company to hire substandard and that's not a working environment you want to get locked in. – Roland Aug 6 at 13:55
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I also have some experience with navigating a very bureaucratic workplace where nothing happens unless its according to a process. When people stonewall you because "there is no process for that", then there are two ways to proceed:

Find a loophole which circumnavigates the process

Maybe they can not give you more money on your current position, but they can do so on a different position? Maybe they can if they change your job title? Maybe they can not give you a higher salary but they can give you bonus payments of equal size? Maybe they can pay you whatever you want when you become an independent contractor (which does of course have other implications you need to be aware of, though)? We once had a person who was declared head of a newly created department which was just them and a person on permanent leave. Because that was the only way to pay that person what they were worth.

I don't know your organization and its bureaucracy, but when you do some research, then you might discover something which allows people to pay you what you are worth. And then you of course need to convince a couple people above you to play along.

Find out how to create the necessary process, and then make that happen

Processes are no laws of nature. They are created by people, so people can change them. So when there are no loopholes, then it's time to create one. Find out who has the power to create such a process. Your union rep doesn't seem to be the correct address, because they can't do anything but beg for it. So find out who tells HR what processes they have, and then lobby that person to create one.


In either case, it is important to be tenacious. Do not accept a "I'll look into it..." as an answer without a deadline about when you get a proper yes or no. And don't be afraid of bothering people. Most people who are comfortable working in a rigid bureaucracy just want to live a peaceful life and don't really care about what happens to the organization as a whole. So if giving you what you want seems the most efficient way to get you off their back, then they will do it.

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    I knew a head of something with 0 persons beside him. So that permanent leave person was a: at least we tried for optics xD – Benjamin Aug 6 at 14:15
  • @Philipp Thanks for the answer. Do you know (roughly of course - you dont work here) who the right kind of people to annoy are? If I get an offer and my boss can't get it matched I'm tempted to fire an email to our CEO with a title like "Do I really have to quit?" – rvukwdvypd Aug 7 at 7:11
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    @rvukwdvypd As I said - I don't know your company. I don't know who makes which decision. But a good way to do the research is to start with those who stonewall you and find out who they receive their instructions from. – Philipp Aug 7 at 7:35
  • The second part of the answer here is surely all that matters. "Oh, sorry, the payscale doesn't exist" - "OK, create it". It doesn't take an act of god, just a spare half hour for someone in management or HR. If they won't even do that, they seem unlikely to spend more time doing something more creative. – BittermanAndy Aug 8 at 12:56
  • @BittermanAndy OP is unionized. Creating a payscale is not so simple if a union is involved. – Roland Aug 10 at 8:56
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Is there hope for you? Of course. Look for jobs elsewhere. When you have an offer, sign it and give notice. If you like, you can tell the old company - just for fun - that you have a better offer and see what happens. Remember you never accept a counter offer.

PS. Seems some people don't like "Never accept a counter offer". We have had people here who accepted a counter offer, and as soon as the offer from the new company disappeared, they were fired. That happens. It doesn't happen always, but often enough to never accept a counter offer.

The other point, specificially for OP, is that he thinks he has been ripped off massively up to now. So if he gets a counter offer of fair pay, what does that mean? It means the company admits that he has been ripped off. Want to work for that company? No sane person would.

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  • Is it still a bad idea to accept a counter offer at a big company? My impression is that nobody here ever gets fired and it's easy to move around because the unions will protect you. They just don't care about the new payscales because there's not enough of us, and fewer who pay subs. – rvukwdvypd Aug 7 at 7:10
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    I disagree with the “never accept a counter offer”, its rubbish advice - Ive done it before, and Ive even left a company, been approached by them and returned after 2 months (still at that job now nearly two years down the line, been promoted twice as well). It entirely depends on the company and people - catch all phrases such as “never accept a counter offer” is simply bad advice. – Moo Aug 7 at 11:30
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    Yeah, "never accept a counter offer" is way too absolutist. "Never accept a counter-offer that doesn't address the root causes of why you want to leave" would be better. I've accepted a counter-offer before, and nothing world-ending happened. – Kevin Aug 7 at 14:31
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    @Kevin I think far too many people are US-centric with advice, and feel that if you accept a counter offer then a few weeks later the company will suddenly show its true colours as vindictive and sack you, leaving you without a job. This would be very very illegal in the UK because we have good employment laws. – Moo Aug 8 at 6:50
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    Statistically speaking, "never accept a counter-offer" remains good advice. An overwhelming majority of people who do, leave the company within 12 months anyway (even in the UK; getting sacked isn't the only risk). The claim isn't that nobody ever made it work, but "statistically speaking, accepting a counter-offer is, on the balance of probability, likely to lead to insufficiently positive consequences, based on evidence of how it has worked out for others in the past, with some exceptions obviously, but with a clear general trend for how it applies to most counter-offers" is not as snappy. – BittermanAndy Aug 9 at 9:28

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