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A couple of weeks ago the Chief Engineer where I work walked past me, stopped, and told me to set up an appointment with him before walking away. I got an appointment from his secretary and I sent him a polite email asking what he would like to talk about so I could prepare, and the response was "Your personal development and career view". My employer has 15k+ staff and 3k engineers so I presume getting individual attention at that level is good news.

It may be a little presumptuous of me but I suspect this may be to discuss a new job that has come up within the company. I think I have good reason to believe this since I have already had a couple of 1:1s with the Chief Engineer about some technical issues and project ideas I have had for our plants, and a few people in Engineering have phoned me up over the last year using phrases like "rvukwdvypd, you are the only person I can rely on for x", "rvukwdvypd, you are the only person who understands y", "rvukwdvypd, you are the only person who has a plan for z".

My big issue is that I believe I am grievously underpaid by my employer, which issued me with a new contract with an unfinished payscale 3 years ago. My employer is highly unionized so the payscale cannot be completed until the company and unions reach an agreement, but either way the finished payscale is likely to pay less than most places I could work at if I moved. Because the Chief Engineer is so high up in the organisation, I think he could have the leverage to give me a salary outside the payscale, even if my very sympathetic line manager can't.

An honest answer to where do I see my career going would be "Anywhere but here because the pay is crap". Despite the low pay I really do like the location and work environment, so my ideal situation would be staying where I am with a salary in line with the old contract, which still pays slightly less than other people in the industry locally.

If he does offer me a job, how can I convince him? Is there anything I should or should not say? Would it be inappropriate? Should I be honest about not wanting to work for my employer or should I not bring negatives up?

A couple of points I have thought of are:

  1. I have been part of a small team of 5 who have saved and avoided £20M+ in 3 years - I deserve a cut of that
  2. I must be working at a very high level to get your attention - when are you going to pay me like I'm that good?
  3. Despite being hired as an Engineer I do a lot of business change stuff, a lot of other staff refuse to work with us but despite that we've managed to work around them to get results.
  4. This job is in the middle of nowhere in a small community, and many of the people who don't want change live in the same town, go to the same pubs and have kids in the same schools. There was already an attempted murder in town due to work issues last year - where's my danger money?
  5. HR may have commissioned one of the Big Four accountancy companies to figure out what the “national average” salaries are for my role, but it was clearly intended as an excuse to cut salaries and my own research and experience interviewing this year informs me I am indeed worth at least £[desired salary]

This is not just a salary negotiation. It is not possible to "negotiate" salary in a lot of British companies. The payscales are fixed and agreed between the employer and unions. If you are on grade x then you earn £y - if you don't like it then you're welcome to leave. The only reason I think negotiating would work is because the Chief Engineer is an executive who could have me put on the old contract, a personal contract, or hired as a contractor on an hourly rate, and I think that he needs persuaded by something different than the usual salary negotiation tactics.

Thanks for reading – hopefully all of that makes sense.

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  • 1
    Does this answer your question? How can I determine a reasonable salary to ask for?
    – gnat
    Sep 30 '20 at 14:42
  • Not a full answer but I would avoid point 4. You choosing not to take a horrible commute is not on the company. It needs to be a factor in deciding what your actual minimum salary is but does not need to be addressed to them.
    – Myles
    Sep 30 '20 at 15:14
  • Are you a member of the union? If so, have you been invited to vote in any ballots on proposals for completing the pay scale? And have you attended the union's members' meetings where they discuss negotiating strategy on pay? And if the Chief Engineer does offer you a higher, off-pay-scale salary, will you volunteer to compose his counter-argument when someone accuses him of offering you that package on grounds of your gender, ethnicity, or some other protected characteristic? Sep 30 '20 at 16:52
  • @gnat Afraid not - in the UK heavily unionised companies have fixed payscales agreed between the union and employers, for instance I am a grade x ergo I get exactly £y a year, and if I don't like it then I'm welcome to leave. My line manager can't change that but I believe an executive could, which is why I have to try and persuade him.
    – rvukwdvypd
    Sep 30 '20 at 18:15
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    Is there anything I should or should not say? ... well all of the sentences 1...5 are a good example of what not to say! That´s not how wage-negotiation works (or business as general, for that matter). Just state what you want in return for your services and see if there is an agreement to be made. Else, search for a different opportunity. No need for bullshit bingo!
    – Daniel
    Oct 2 '20 at 11:04
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By far the most effective evidence you could use to demonstrate how underpaid you are is to get a job offer somewhere else for considerably more money. Not to hold the offer over their head (I would recommend against that, given what you've told us) but to prove what you're worth in the open market, in a way that averages and comparisons can only suggest.

Assuming this conversation goes as you expect, don't bring up salary at all until the Chief Engineer has already put the offer on the table. IE

CE: "rvukwdvpd, we want to promote you to X"

You: "Provisionally, I'd love to accept that promotion. If we can come to an agreement over my new package."

And then you bring out all the stuff above about how valuable you are to the company, how underpaid your current position already is relative to what you've been offered elsewhere, etc.

Don't mention anything negative, just focus on what you bring to the table and being commensurately paid in line with the value you provide.

Also if you want some further reading on salary negotiation, this is my favourite post on the subject: https://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-negotiation/

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    Thanks for the reply. I did find the linked article helpful. I guess it would be best to find out what the offer is, conditionally accept it and then push for a renegotiated salary. TYVM.
    – rvukwdvypd
    Oct 3 '20 at 14:34
  • @rvukwdvypd Once you've already settled for a salary of £X, it's incredibly difficult to renegotiate. Provisionally accepting the job, if you can both agree an acceptable salary is much more likely to get you what you want, and doesn't stop you from accepting £X anyway if it turns out that's all they're willing to offer.
    – Kaz
    Oct 3 '20 at 16:06
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If he does offer me a job, how can I convince him?

In my opinion, if he came first, you don't need any more convincing, he's already interested in you because either of your skills, personality or just the general reputation you have in the company, as you had couple of 1:1 with chief engineers and etc.

Is there anything I should or should not say?

Treat it as a normal interview, like an interview with a new company. Be yourself, show your strong sides, talk about the position together and tell your vision about it.

Would it be inappropriate?

It really depends on that chief engineer, some people like blunt truth, others don't. But in your case I would hold this thought of yours, because more times than not, this will burn your chances.

Should I be honest about not wanting to work for my employer or should I not bring negatives up?

Like I said, you should treat it as a normal interview. If pressed upon, you could reveal a reason or two, but it's ultimately up to you. I would rather focus on the new job, challenges, pros and cons, the vision of the job, benefits (more than a salary increase for e.g) and so on.

This job is in the middle of nowhere in a small community, and many of the people who don't want change live in the same town, go to the same pubs and have kids in the same schools.

In this case, you should write down pros and cons and see where you end up, no one can tell whether this move will be good or not, only you can.

In general, I would try pursuing this option, try to negotiate for a bigger salary, some negotiation skills might be worthy here. Clearly, you have cards to favor your play, so use them, use all arguments for the increase and you should be good. Also, you can try interviewing with other companies at the same time, this will not hurt for sure.

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  • Thanks for the response - I appreciate it. I'll keep your advice in mind. I like where I work but I don't like the terms and conditions at all.
    – rvukwdvypd
    Oct 3 '20 at 14:34
  • Good luck, glad I could help, even a bit.
    – Gintas
    Oct 3 '20 at 16:29
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Ask if getting promoted into engineering management would be possible.

The main issue is that your pay is constrained by the negotiations between the union and the company. Fortunately, there should be a way around that: management jobs aren’t unionised, so if you can get promoted into a management role, you should be able to negotiate for a level of pay that you believe that you’re worth.

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  • 'management jobs aren’t unionised' Citation needed. Oct 2 '20 at 19:55
  • I can’t find a page stating that managers aren’t allowed to join unions in the UK in general, but here’s one for a specific union: gwu-uk.org/frequently-asked-questions/#eligiblity and here’s one for the USA: nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/employee-rights-book/…
    – nick012000
    Oct 3 '20 at 1:44
  • Thanks, @nick012000. My best guess is that the main union at OP's workplace is likely to be Unite, and paragraph 7.9 of their rule book says 'Members employed in managerial, professional, supervisory, technical and/or clerical grades may, where appropriate, be organised and represented separately from other members in the same sector', which carries the clear implication that there are members in managerial roles. Oct 3 '20 at 10:36
  • ... although whether managers are covered by the collective-bargaining-based pay scale is, I guess, a separate question from whether the managers are members of the union. Oct 3 '20 at 10:51
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    Thanks for the reply - appreciated. Managers are included in collective bargaining. Personal contracts do exist but they are generally for very senior executive level staff.
    – rvukwdvypd
    Oct 3 '20 at 14:37
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From what you are describing, getting a pay rise even with the support of the Chief Engineer seems difficult. Therefore, I would recommend treating this as a secondary objective and focus on the conversation about the new role. If you need to move companies to get the pay raise you want, I'm guessing this new role would provide a boost to your CV.

Raise the point about pay once the offer of the new role is on the table. Have ready any research backing up your point on being under paid. Remember to always speak positively and don't vent any pent up frustration you may have since this is unlikely to help you get what you want.

Be prepared to accept an increase that maybe doesn't quite match up with what you want. Any increase in pay helps you. Some companies try to set pay objectively but plenty will just look at your past pay and offer +15% because they feel they can get away with this.

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  • Thanks for the response. I guess I'll have to wait and see.
    – rvukwdvypd
    Oct 3 '20 at 14:37

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