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THE QUESTION

My employer is trying to coerce me into signing an agreement on a new pay structure, which is a reduction of $50,000 from my current pay – a commission-based plan with earnings of $250,000. Am I forced to take this new plan or am I entitled to my current pay structure, which shows no expiry by contract? I have been avoiding signing the new agreement, but don't want to be terminated over resistance to it, which they seem to be threatening to do.

THE FIRST ANSWER

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Eileen Dooley

Vice-president, VF Career Management, Calgary office

Find out why the employer is wanting to implement a new pay structure, as chances are it is not just you who is affected.

Times change, and along with that go the jobs people do, and the compensation packages they receive.

There could be legitimate reasons for needing to change the pay structure, such as reworking the main revenue streams or calculating how much sales are expected going into the new year(s). The point is that many factors could be at play here, with your employer wanting to keep you, but needing to revisit the terms.

In addition, if they want to negotiate, so can you. Perhaps work in a compensation review in 12 months or an increase in commission after a certain point of sales. Either way, there could be a win-win here if both sides understand where each other is coming from, and where they want to get to.

THE SECOND ANSWER

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Bruce Sandy

Principal, Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting, Vancouver

I understand your concern. No one wants to feel coerced by their employer into a new compensation agreement. Be curious with your employer about what is the reason that they want to change your compensation – e.g. because of a downturn in the sector or the economy or because of performance-based reasons. Are they doing this with all your peers (e.g. throughout the company) or are they singling you out for this compensation change?

If this is happening with all your colleagues and you want to stay with your employer, then you will have to be prepared to negotiate regarding compensation levels, including bonuses and timing. But if you are being singled out, then you will want to see if they are open to negotiating and talking about how to improve your performance. If they are not, then you will want to seek advice from an employment lawyer, polish up your résumé, start networking and looking for other employment opportunities.

Do not leave or quit until you find another opportunity and/or your employer offers you a package. An employment lawyer will advise you about this and how long you can operate under your current contract.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com

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