Agency used contractor to get contractors to agree to pay cut

Agent Used Contractor
Agent Used Contractor

Agency Used Contractor

A reader tells how an agency used contractor to get other contractors to take a pay cut.


I always read your website, I think it’s excellent and some of the stories I can really relate to.

My Contracting Story

Here’s a story for you. I don’t know if you can use it or not, but this is what has just happened to me.

I’ve been working on a contract in the Netherlands since January 1997. My agency is one who has an office over here. They hired me from London. I was sent over to work for a client initially for a year. That just rolled and rolled until one day I simply had enough and decided to leave the contract.

The agency has always been pretty good. I have to be fair here. They are prompt payers. The agent who hired me was very hands on and we got on really well away from work.

I got him several good people to place, and we had a great relationship. That was until one day, he left – and such is the nature of the beast, that was it.

New Agent

After he left, we got another agent, but he didn’t last too long. Then we were given a third agent, a Dutch woman. From the first day, there was something about her that just didn’t sit right with me. Do you know when you see someone and they’re smiling at you, but you know they’re twisting the knife at the same time?

I’d been at my client for three years when my new agent was appointed. I had a superb relationship with my manager. I often went to him, at contract negotiation time, to say that I was happy with my rate. I didn’t want another rise.

I could have extorted them for loads of money over various crises. However, I valued the longevity of the contract. I really enjoyed the job and the people and I was happy enough with what I was earning.

My new agent came in and told me that I was not allowed to talk to my manager about rates and rises. I had to negotiate with her.

The reason for this was she was going in and asking for rises, in line with inflation. As I’d not asked for anything, they would have given this money to the agency.

I told my boss to inform the powers that be in HR that I’d asked for absolutely nothing and for them not to give anything. I heard no more.

Asked to Take Rate Cut

Then the downturn hit hard and they asked us all for a rate cut. Obviously this annoyed me, and I asked the agency to take a cut in their fee they were charging for me. They would only do this if I took a cut too. So I agreed a 5% cut, which they met, but their cut was still over 20%.

Then she went off sick with “stress” and we never heard from her again for close to a year. Contract negotiations came around again, and we were pretty much left to our own devices. No raises would be offered by the client, so we were all on the same rate again. It was just a case of the client signing off the purchase orders and that was it.

Change of Contract

That’s until the contract suddenly changed from 1 year to three months. At the same time, my agency stopped issuing contracts, saying instead that I’d signed a “rolling” contract, back in 1999, rather than a fixed-term contract as I’d signed in the years before.

At the time, I didn’t see the significance of this “new” type of contract until it became apparent that under Dutch employment law, if you sign three consecutive fixed-term contracts, or work for 36 consecutive months, then under Dutch law you are considered a permanent employee of the company that gave you the contract.

The agency played dumb, and tried to tell me nothing had changed. However, it was now apparent that a lot of things had changed and suddenly they were worried.

Questions went unanswered, requests for contracts as I’d had before were denied.

Suddenly there were no new contracts being issued by the agency.

Eventually the agent came back and the end of the three month contract was imminent. All requests for updates on the status of the contract went unheeded.

There would be news “”tomorrow””. That was all that was forthcoming.

Contract Expired

Eventually, the last Friday before my contract expired, I had to go into my project manager and tell him that I wasn’t coming in to work the next Monday as I didn’t have a contract any more. My agent had gone off “”sick”” again, just when I needed her to do her job.

My project manager escalated it internally and within an hour, I was told that I had a six month extension and that there was nothing to worry about.

This came with less than two working days left on the three month contract.

I chased up my agent’s manager and demanded to know why things had been allowed to run until so late in the day. I also asked him what it was they were doing for me, given that it was me who had chased up the contract extension.

I was met with all the usual bluff and hyperbole and put the phone down in absolute disgust, but only after my angry demands for a cut of my agent’s commission come my way for doing her job were agreed to.

More Rate Cuts

Then it happened again. More rate cuts were asked for. I refused, citing the signed and agreed contract I’d had with the agency. I told them to cut their margins and that was all they were going to get from me.

Before I could get involved in another fight with my agency, I handed in my notice, thinking that that was the end of the matter. I would be out of their hair once and for all, and, as I had handed in my notice, I would forego any claim to redundancy I might have under Dutch law (as I was classed as a permanent member of staff despite my agency’s protestations).

No – not a bit of it.

Agent Used Contractor Against Others

In the most blatant act of unprofessionalism I’ve ever encountered, my agent, who is supposed to represent me and respect my confidentiality, then decided to take the news of my resignation into my client and use that as a lever to get people to take further pay cuts. I was named personally in these meetings, and she was citing that my replacement had come in twenty euros an hour cheaper than me.

The reason for that is, I’d been there for almost seven years, and knew all the systems, the procedures, and the job inside out. My rate was commensurate with experience and my client was happy with my performance, putting me on the “”critical”” list of contract employees.

News filtered back to me that there were rumours that I had quit the contract as I had refused to take a pay cut and that I’d been sacked by the client for being too expensive. I was absolutely furious. Almost seven years of work were clouded in one afternoon by my agent and her manager.

Nothing Like It

In thirteen years in the IT industry, I have never experienced anything like it. I contacted my agent and went ballistic at her down the phone, and also to her boss.

Both of them denied that they had done anything wrong. When I said about respecting confidentiality they dismissed my ranting completely.

I branded them unprofessional and unethical – among several hundred expletives.

I called the managing director of the company to complain to him that after almost seven years working for him, I would have expected to be treated a little better, he agreed with me, but in truth, I don’t expect anything further to come of it.

Agents are Snakes

Agents are snakes, only out for their commission. I know that, but this one is the lowest I’ve ever encountered.

I emailed you hoping you would publish the story so that your readers are warned about her sheer audacity and disrespect. I emailed my manager, the HR department and anyone else who would listen.

Together, my agent and her manager have deliberately abused their position, using their knowledge of my resignation to pressure other contractors into rate cuts, and they have put a cloud over my personal and professional integrity, by bringing news of my resignation into rate negotiations, allowing people to believe I have resigned or been forced out over rate cuts.

That agent used contractor against other contractors.

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