It's the midst of the Great Recession, and this big bank starts telling the companies that provide it with IT contractors that it's cutting rates, according to a pilot fish who's caught in the middle.
"The marketer I worked with warned me this was coming," fish says. "My contract was renewed every three months, and I figured when I got the contract that cut my rate I'd reduce my spending, continue working at the bank and start looking for the next project at a better rate.
"But I didn't get an updated contract from the contract broker. I kept getting paid the same rate. Since nothing changed, I figured either the bank didn't change the rate or the contract broker decided to absorb the cut."
Fast forward more than a year: Fish gets an urgent request to meet with the marketer. She reminds fish of the long-ago conversation about a rate cut. Is the bank cutting the rate now? fish asks.
"No, they cut it back when we first talked about it," she says. It seems her boss just realized the bank cut the rate but somehow fish's pay rate was never reduced. Now her boss wants her to get fish to pay back that money, claiming it was fish's fault, that he should have realized he was being overpaid all that time. Alternatively, the boss suggests, fish could work the "debt" off -- or face being sued for the money.
Fish tells the the marketer that, while he enjoys working with her, he's technically an employee of the contract broker, and as such he is probably protected from retroactive pay cuts and would have to be paid for any hours worked.
And he points out that if he's sued, he'd have to let the bank know what happened.
"I wasn't nasty about it -- I really did enjoy our relationship, and we've worked together at several contract brokers -- and she went away to discuss the situation with her boss," says fish.
"A short time later, word came down that cuts were going to be even deeper than planned. I was being renewed for only a month with no expectation of further renewals. The contract broker sent me a new contract for that period with the new, lower rate -- as they should have a year before -- and I was happy to sign it."
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