Can I negotiate my new wage with the temp agency I'm hired through?
October 15, 2008 5:37 AM   Subscribe

Can I negotiate my new wage with the temp agency I'm hired through?

I recently got promoted at my job. At the time I was hired, I was very much in need of work, and although my background is in communications and graphic design, I was willing to take anything for the time being. I took the first job I was offered. It was supposed to be a 2 month contract, which now looks like it end up being nearly a year.

I am living in New Zealand, and registered with an employment agency (I am Canadian but have a work visa in NZ until the end of July.) The agency hired me for an admin job for a large branch of the government, and although they knew I wanted communications work, thought that this would be a good environment to work and expressed that it was only an administrative role. I was hired at $18NZD/hr.

So I started out doing admin work, was trained by the admin person before me. However, due to some shifting around of roles in the department, and the fact that I know InDesign and web design, and have several years of experience in Communications roles, I ended up taking on a lot more responsibility. I am now finding and writing stories, taking photos, and doing the layout of the weekly internal newsletter for the ministry, in addition to all the admin jobs I was trained for. I've been working here for about 3 months.

Because of the increased amount of responsibility, I talked to my manager and asked if it was possible to be hired by the ministry directly, rather than through the agency. I would also like to commit to them at least until the end of my visa, longer if it could be extended.

My manager pulled me in for a meeting today and said that they were really happy with my work, that they could extend the work until at least the end of July, and that they would like to offer me a raise to reflect the new role - she said they would pay $35 an hour, but that she wasn't sure how much the temp agency took off that. She said they couldn't hire me without the temp agency because they would have to pay a fee to buy out the contract.

This afternoon the temp lady called me, said she had spoken with my manager (she didn't know that I had spoken with the manager beforehand) and told me that the manager would like to give me a raise to $21 an hour (before taxes). I told her I was surprised, and said I had also talked with the manager and asked if the $14 per hour was the cut that the temp agency got. She got really uncomfortable and said "well, yes, it is a lot of work setting up these contracts." I asked if the manager was aware of that percentage, said I was just going to check with her and she said "well, I'll call her to confirm." She didn't seem to want me to go back and talk to the manager.

I guess my question is if there is any wiggle-room with the temp agency to get a slightly higher wage ($25/hr??) After talking with my manager, I was a bit disappointed that the temp agency gets such a large cut. Is this pretty standard?

I don't want to whine, but I also want to make sure that I'm getting paid a fair wage as it is a high-pressure job and I am also responsible for a lot of other management and planning duties in addition to the newsletter.

I haven't signed anything, and I'm wondering if I can go back to the temp agency and ask for a higher wage.

After I got off the phone with the temp lady, she called back a few minutes later and said "I did the calculations, and it looks like you'll actually be getting $ that OK with you???" I just asked her to send me through the forms but didn't say yes or no.

Should I just suck it up, not tell the manager what the temp agency charges (she told me she doesn't know) and be happy with the increase I got? Or is it worth investigating more?

I really like where I work, I like who I work with, and I work hard.

I have never worked for a temp agency before, and am surprised that they can command such a high fee for doing (what seems to me) very little.

Sorry for the longwinded question, and thank you for your help!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I guess my question is if there is any wiggle-room with the temp agency to get a slightly higher wage ($25/hr??) After talking with my manager, I was a bit disappointed that the temp agency gets such a large cut. Is this pretty standard?

This is standard in the United States, actually its usually double (meaning on a $35, they usually would only pay you $17.50).

Do they do very little? Without them, you wouldn't have this job. (Hope that wasn't too direct) They have to constantly go out there and find opportunities for their temps and they need to have a reason to try to find people work (i.e. money).

But in short, yes, this is negotiable. You need to explain to the temp agency how you without you there, they probably would not have gotten the work, get recommendations from your managers, etc. At least in the experience, by anecdotes, this is possible. At least in the US. Especially since you have a track record with the agency.
posted by sandmanwv at 5:50 AM on October 15, 2008

Second sandmanwv - temp agency wages are very negotiable, the cut they take is ridiculous, you have a right (indeed an obligation!) to be offended by it, and the reason your employer-by-proxy doesn't simply hire you outright is probably a clause in their temp contract preventing them from doing so within a period of time (~1 year?) without paying an enormous premium. It keeps temps in temping, ensures revenue for the fucking temp agency, etc.

Can you tell I've had less-than-stellar experiences with such agencies? No way.
posted by waxbanks at 6:15 AM on October 15, 2008

Also: such agencies do not do a lot of work with their larger clients. The temp agency that put me into a 'six-week' job (turned into 13 months) had a rotating stable of temps at Big Publishing Firm, and the work they did amounted to reediting résumés and shipping fools like me over to B.P.Firm. After the initial hiring/screening process, the agency was making money off their temps hand over fist; the costs of screening temps for who^H^H^Hhiring scaled most advantageously for the firm.
posted by waxbanks at 6:18 AM on October 15, 2008

Yes, you most certainly can. Confidently explain to your recruiter that you are no longer in an administrative position, and provide details on your current responsibilities. Explain that because you have advanced at the company, you would like to negotiate for a higher rate. Wait for their offer, explain that because you were expecting more like xxx amount (always over-estimate) and ask if they have a second offer. Repeat until you get what you want, or close to it.

Seconding that the agency will charge the company a premium to hire direct. (Here in the US, I was hired for a flat $6000 - twice.) One company paid it up front, and the other hired me for three months. Apparently, after those three months, the agency had included approximately half of the fee in their markup - you may want to consider this as a possibility. Talk with your superiors (if you can) about a position directly with the company. Again, only if you think this is possible without negative repercussions.

Also, paging notmydesk.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 7:28 AM on October 15, 2008

My experience in working for an agency in Australia is that they do have room to move in a situation like this. My agency took around 20% on top of my hourly rate and then added on GST and Suparannuation to that.

Therefore, if I was on $100/hr, they would add $20/hr for themselves and $9 an hour for mandatory 9% Super in Aus. That totalled $129/h then, they would add 10% for GST (actually, I'm not sure they get to add GST to Super but, these are ballpark figures) That way the client was billed at $141.90 per hour total.

In this case you could reverse engineer the number and come up with a compromise as 14/35 is a 40% commission which is way out of order...

As other commenters have said, they do almost no work for the money and, why should you have to put up with them taking such a huge chunk of the money YOU are earning.

I have always negotiated with temp agencies both in Australia and in the UK and, as long as you come at them with hard facts and figures and are realistic about how much they can take, they can't really talk their way out of that corner. The fact that she sounded uncomfortable straight away is good - it means you have leverage as she is a little embarassed about taking so much of your money in the first place. Also, your manager will tend to be on your side in this case so feel free to ask them to talk to the agency too.

Your best bet is to have your manager on your side, be well informed and push harder until you get $28 an hour. It's your money, you earn it, you should get to keep it. Combine that with the fact your role has changed substantially and, they should cough it up...

*I may add i was never on $100/hr, it was just easier to do the maths at that level...
posted by moocheen at 7:47 AM on October 15, 2008

A few places I worked who had a lot of temps from my agency had deals worked out where after the temp had been there N days, they no longer had to pay the agency's hiring commission, or the commission was reduced. If the place you're working gets a lot of temps from your agency or is very serious about wanting to hire you, you may want to see if they can negotiate the commission down.
posted by fidelity at 9:36 AM on October 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Of course it's negotiable. They just got a huge raise because you do great work. They have no more expense in recruiting or training you.
posted by theora55 at 10:37 AM on October 15, 2008

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