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Old 16.06.2015, 11:27
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Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

Hey,

I thought I would ask on here as I'm unsure of the status... I assume it's lost due to me accepting a bum deal to begin with, but it's worth a try as I'd been campaigning for a "fair" wage for over a year now. Excuse the long-ish read, I thought a bit of back story might be useful.

I've been working with a UK company since Feb 2011. The pay has been middle of the line for job type, location and experience.

Cut to October 2012 and the company land a contract with a large Swiss pharma company for a dedicated on-site presence. It looks like it's going to be me, I do my research, go into meeting with salary expectation of 95-100k chf/year based on my age, experience, length of time with company and relative to the position.

I get laughed at... (by UK management who have not dealt in this sector previously)

I get told my research is completely and utterly incorrect, I'm striking way too high and I will take 75000 + potential for 3000 bonus or I will not get the position.

Double check living costs, have a chat with the fiancee and decide to go for it... we'll both be living on the single salary but it's not a small amount and we won't be wanting for much, our standard of living should still be improved over a combine income of about 60k GBP (involving more hours worked by myself in overtime).

So, I accept the offer, even though my research tells me I should be aiming higher.

6-12 months in, I start to find out the types of salaries the people I'm working with, doing similarly skilled things and similar ages etc... I find out my initial research was correct and I'm being quite underpaid for my skillset.

March 2014, present my findings, along with evidence from multiple sites that can provide salary estimates/expectations to both my manager and the managing director and ask for a pay rise.

Months go by with nothing... a few reminders etc... keep getting bounced around with no commitment or offer, despite being promised before the position began that there would be a salary review every year.

As a contention point, this contract earns the company I work for 250k per year and they do nothing. It was originally specced as only a year starter contract and through nothing but my performance that the client has found to be favourable, has it continued to be renewed and they are already projecting plans past 2020. The carrot I was thrown for this... half my yearly bonus. If they lose me, they lose this contract... they don't have anyone to replace me and I only have to give a months notice. It takes up to 6 months to train a new engineer and the client are keen to have one with experience... none of the other existing employees are interested in this position.

Cut to this years permit renewal (I'm only granted a yearly permit due to being paid by a UK employer and they can't tax me at source)... it gets rejected! Turns out, the checks on foreign workers have become tighter this year and permits are getting rejected if they don't meet the minimum salary requirements.

So... in order to continue the contract, my company has been forced to up my wage from 75k CHF to 83484 CHF.

I give the full amount in that second figure, because the company were given a range... the bottom 25th percentile being 83484 and 75th percentile being 106728... or thereabouts.

Why am I a little frustrated? The company picked the smallest number, to the very Franc that they would possibly pass through Swiss authorities to get me a work permit for my third year. I am an expert in my field and work with specialist software that's not so easy to replace, so I don't think bare minimum is a fair salary.

I have confirmation from the Swiss permit office who processed this, that yes - I have been underpaid for the last 2.5 years - only this year the process has become stricter and so they are able to reject permits based on these figures, whereas they didn't before.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure where to go next or if I even can do anything... of course the company signed the paperwork to say I would be paid the equivalent to those I am working with and being shortchanged a bit over 20k CHF in total is not something to ignore. I am wondering - is there any action I can take here, or is it lost because I accepted it?

What about negotiations to up my salary to around the mid-point from here onwards... I am already in the process of updating my CV... however this job has quite a few perks and I would prefer not to through it away simply because management don't value me in the way they should. I'm not struggling for funds and I don't need the extra money (of course it would be nice)... but getting this big middle finger from the company and working for substantially less than the person in the next office... is not a favourable position to be in.

I feel like a bit of a greedy sod when I'm not struggling and I'm sure many people would be happy with what I already have... I am just trying to get what I would consider fair.



TLR; company paying me the bare minimum they can to get permit approval, have been doing worse by nearly 10% for 2.5 years... what do?
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  #2  
Old 16.06.2015, 11:31
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

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What do?
Look for another job where you feel emotionally and financially better supported.
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Old 16.06.2015, 11:41
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

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Look for another job where you feel emotionally and financially better supported.
Agreed. If your company doesn't care enough to keep your unique skills in your area, then it's high time you hit the road and left for greener pastures.

Finally, obviously try to find something else either here or abroad before making the jump...

Good luck!
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Old 16.06.2015, 11:41
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

I was in a similar situation before and tried to fix the pay of a job I otherwise loved for two years. Didn't work. It' basic psychology and negotiation knowledge: Once you have established a bar (your current salary) is it near impossible to get more than a few percent corrections. Look for another job.

Good luck!
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Old 16.06.2015, 11:44
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

Your negotiating position is based on your skills and knowledge.

If you are correct that the market rate for these is higher, you should be able to get a job somewhere else for a better rate.

After over a year since you raised it the company probably assumes, with quite a lot of evidence, that you won't leave. At the end you justify (to yourself?) why you should stay - so it doesn't sound like they are wrong.

Simple answer is look for a new job - you don't have to take any offers, you will get a realistic view of the market and your ability to move, and if you get an OK offer you can quit and see if your current employer wakes up with a counter offer.
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Old 16.06.2015, 11:49
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

Start looking for another job. Once you have found one that would be acceptable to you, offer your resignation to your current company with full explanation that you would prefer to stay but do not feel you are being treated fairly on salary and set out in words of one syllable the business case for them to keep you. If you are really as difficult to replace as you state, they will have to negotiate. If they are too stubborn then you have your new job lined up anyway.

Good luck!
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Old 16.06.2015, 11:55
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

Well, you've got a year's experience, contact with the client and now a B-permit on a new contract with 1 month notice (perhaps less if it is in probation period). Just quit, contact the client and agree to work for 150k or find some other job if they are not interested.
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Old 16.06.2015, 11:56
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

Just an idea, can you approach the large Swiss pharma company to hire you directly? But, check your work contract if this is allowed.

It will be a win-win for you and the Swiss company..
I.e they will only pay you half of the total contract.

They can save more, and you can earn more...
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Old 16.06.2015, 11:59
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

I assume you're EU; I know of a non-EU company which was forced by Basel Stadt to raise the salaries of some staff sent over to Basel. I believe the figure was 120,000 for anyone with a family who was a "manager". At the time, my company were paying about 80-90,000. Basel Stadt could demand this as a condition to granting the visa; they can't do that with EU passport holders.

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Just an idea, can you approach the large Swiss pharma company to hire you directly? But, check your work contract if this is allowed.
It's extremely unlikely to be allowed and even if it's not forbidden, as the role itself has been outsourced there is no headcount to recruit internally to fill it.
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Old 16.06.2015, 12:06
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

Leave.

Why not try to switch to the pharma company? They know your skills, work quality - that eliminates the biggest risks involved in recruiting.
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Old 16.06.2015, 12:15
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

This is by no means a unique situation. Salaries even within the large pharma companies are often subject to the same vagaries, and for this reason discussions of salaries between colleagues is generally frowned upon if not outright verboten.

E.g. I've known of two people in the same role (in the same team), one of them on 126k and the other on 176k. Yes, the latter had more "experience", but that doesn't necessarily equate to being better at the job. It all comes down to the circumstances when the employment starts, including supply/demand of skill-set, economic factors such as relative exchange rates and simple negotiating skills. Once someone starts a job on a given salary it's usually pretty much impossible to negotiate a raise within the same organisation unless there's a major change in the role and the responsibility.
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Old 16.06.2015, 12:24
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

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I was in a similar situation before and tried to fix the pay of a job I otherwise loved for two years. Didn't work. It' basic psychology and negotiation knowledge: Once you have established a bar (your current salary) is it near impossible to get more than a few percent corrections. Look for another job.

Good luck!
Very true. To add to this point, I have found there are usually 4 times in a career where an employee has any real bargaining power.

1: Before you accept a position
2: You demonstrate you are an A player
3: You force the issue by resignation (intent or actual)
4: You are promoted

#1: once you accept -that's it. You're basically locked into the budgeted rate for increases going forward unless you are above average which mean you get a 2.9% increase rather than the fleet ave of 2.5% or whatever your company does each year.

If #2 was the case, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

#3 only works once, so don't be that person who keeps going back to the trough. Also, be prepared for the "don't let the door hit your ass on the way out" response. TBH, it sounds like your fully burdened salary cost eats into a big chunk of your project earnings of 250K anyway (is that top line or profit?). If the former - most likely your company is just breaking even so if you go down this road - be ready.

#4 depends on the situation.

I'm in alignment with the rest of the responses here: dust off the CV and start looking. The open market does a pretty good job of setting the correct value. In the meantime, up your game and make it obvious that you are an asset to the company. When its time to make the decision and you have another offer in hand, you are in a better position to negotiate. Worst thing you can do is to play the victim and whine. It makes you and the employer crazy.


Good luck.
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Old 17.06.2015, 10:01
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

Thank you all for the kind and speedy replies

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Well, you've got a year's experience, contact with the client and now a B-permit on a new contract with 1 month notice (perhaps less if it is in probation period). Just quit, contact the client and agree to work for 150k or find some other job if they are not interested.
No B permit... I haven't updated my location, I moved over the border into France October last year as I wanted a house + garden instead of teeny flat

Even if I had stayed in Switz, I would not have received a B permit unless I took them to court, which is apparently quite expensive. I could not get a B permit by default due to being paid by a UK employer as they cannot take tax at source. But of course, now I'm on a yearly G permit.

I wasn't even able to get longer than a year at a time for a permit, even though now the contract has no end date, just 3 month notice period between the two companies... only 1 month on my UK perm employment contract.

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Leave.

Why not try to switch to the pharma company? They know your skills, work quality - that eliminates the biggest risks involved in recruiting.
I've already tried my luck with that one... I got that the line manager would indeed like to hire me, but is unable to get a head number increase for his department, while contractors are much easier to add. That combine with this is supposed to be a "managed service" and they like the idea of having the backup of that for insurance... the "managed service" is simply me... I carefully suggested that I didn't think they would really lose anything there by bringing my skillset in themselves... but I wanted to be careful in not encouraging them to cancel the contract and employ a local... although it's specialist software, so that wouldn't be so easy.

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I assume you're EU; I know of a non-EU company which was forced by Basel Stadt to raise the salaries of some staff sent over to Basel. I believe the figure was 120,000 for anyone with a family who was a "manager". At the time, my company were paying about 80-90,000. Basel Stadt could demand this as a condition to granting the visa; they can't do that with EU passport holders.


It's extremely unlikely to be allowed and even if it's not forbidden, as the role itself has been outsourced there is no headcount to recruit internally to fill it.
Yes, EU - UK Citizen, UK Company contracting for Swiss Company.

The contract does state that they're not supposed to hire me for 6 months after I leave or the contract is terminated or something along those lines, however I was instructed that those clauses aren't enforceable in Switzerland.

Last edited by dibbles; 17.06.2015 at 10:13.
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Old 17.06.2015, 10:19
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

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The contract does state that they're not supposed to hire me for 6 months after I leave or the contract is terminated or something along those lines, however I was instructed that those clauses aren't enforceable in Switzerland.
Generally, no (note, though, that I am not a lawyer). It depends on factors like seniority, specificity of the ban, etc., but you could generally expect that a clause preventing you from taking another job for X amount of time would be compensated by a salary for X amount of time (e.g. paid garden leave).

Clauses that impose a financial consideration, however, may be valid. For example, if your contract says "if you go to work for client XXX, then you agree to pay us 1/2 of a year's salary (at your new position)", that might very well be enforceable.

I'm less clear if the contract you're speaking about is the one between the client and your company.

Anyway, that's what I'm told.
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Old 17.06.2015, 10:39
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

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Clauses that impose a financial consideration, however, may be valid. For example, if your contract says "if you go to work for client XXX, then you agree to pay us 1/2 of a year's salary (at your new position)", that might very well be enforceable.
I am not a lawyer either but since I had a contract with a similar clause and worked for a very specific market which only has three players in Switzerland did I look into it a couple of years ago: non-competition clauses are enforceable if they are "reasonable" and don't prevent an employee from earning a living within Switzerland - not your town or village...

If a bakery puts in the contract that you aren't allowed to work for a direct competitor within a 10km range is this not stopping you from finding employment in Switzerland. If they'd put in "you are not allowed to work in any other bakery in the country" could they just as well leave the clause out.
Given the salary level of the OP do I not think any serious financial clause would hold either... this might work with an investment banker and his million CHF bonus, but not below 100k a year... as it effectively stops you from earning a living in Switzerland.
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Old 17.06.2015, 11:02
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

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Generally, no (note, though, that I am not a lawyer). It depends on factors like seniority, specificity of the ban, etc., but you could generally expect that a clause preventing you from taking another job for X amount of time would be compensated by a salary for X amount of time (e.g. paid garden leave).

Clauses that impose a financial consideration, however, may be valid. For example, if your contract says "if you go to work for client XXX, then you agree to pay us 1/2 of a year's salary (at your new position)", that might very well be enforceable.

I'm less clear if the contract you're speaking about is the one between the client and your company.

Anyway, that's what I'm told.
It also depends on the value of the client and what hold they have over the vendor (is the vendor competing for other contracts with the client, for example?). If the client says they're employing someone and they want no reprecussions, the vendor might just accept it (bearing in mind that their contract for the original position should still be in place and they can just import another body).
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Old 17.06.2015, 11:03
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

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Thank you all for the kind and speedy replies



No B permit... I haven't updated my location, I moved over the border into France October last year as I wanted a house + garden instead of teeny flat

Even if I had stayed in Switz, I would not have received a B permit unless I took them to court, which is apparently quite expensive. I could not get a B permit by default due to being paid by a UK employer as they cannot take tax at source. But of course, now I'm on a yearly G permit.

I wasn't even able to get longer than a year at a time for a permit, even though now the contract has no end date, just 3 month notice period between the two companies... only 1 month on my UK perm employment contract.



I've already tried my luck with that one... I got that the line manager would indeed like to hire me, but is unable to get a head number increase for his department, while contractors are much easier to add. That combine with this is supposed to be a "managed service" and they like the idea of having the backup of that for insurance... the "managed service" is simply me... I carefully suggested that I didn't think they would really lose anything there by bringing my skillset in themselves... but I wanted to be careful in not encouraging them to cancel the contract and employ a local... although it's specialist software, so that wouldn't be so easy.



Yes, EU - UK Citizen, UK Company contracting for Swiss Company.

The contract does state that they're not supposed to hire me for 6 months after I leave or the contract is terminated or something along those lines, however I was instructed that those clauses aren't enforceable in Switzerland.
About "No B permit". This means you were here illegally?

About " I could not get a B permit by default due to being paid by a UK employer" The Swiss Govt. are not interested in who pays you and where. If you are sitting and working in Switzerland then you need to be registered and pay taxes here.

Read this official Swiss Govt. statement about exceptions to the work permit process for workers sent here by foreign companies. You have to get permission and this is not allowed for more than 90 days per year.
Statement;
[Foreign] Companies posting workers to Switzerland can use the registration procedure for up to 90 individual working days per company and calendar year. The registration has to take place at least 8 days before taking up work in Switzerland. No registration is required for work lasting no more than 8 days per calendar year

For all situations not mentioned above (especially services or employment lasting more than 90 days or 3 months per calendar year) the registration procedure can not be used and a work permit is required.
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Old 17.06.2015, 16:51
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

This isn't quite right actually, marton. I think OP's situation is likely covered by an "L" work permit for highly-skilled workers on specific assignments from their home employer to a Swiss company (secondments, consultants and the like), generally up to 12 months.

It is distinct from the 90 day "registration" for EU (which is not a visa).
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Old 17.06.2015, 17:06
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

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This isn't quite right actually, marton. I think OP's situation is likely covered by an "L" work permit for highly-skilled workers on specific assignments from their home employer to a Swiss company (secondments, consultants and the like), generally up to 12 months.

It is distinct from the 90 day "registration" for EU (which is not a visa).
Well he wrote he now has a G permit?

Rereading his post I believe you are correct and he had an L permit!
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Old 17.06.2015, 17:30
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Re: Underpaid for the last 2.5 years

As internal hiring is hardly feasible, I suggest the following:
1. Talk to the project manager in the pharma company you're being outsourced to what is their preferred external hiring company
2. Get them sit together and write up a deal for you
3. Get hired by that external company and resign your current one
4. Profit
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