Contractor spies – agencies are using them to spy on other contractors.
Ever wonder why some agencies don’t want to know you. That’s even when you’re perfect for a job for which they’ve advertised?
It could be that someone you work with is ‘doing the dirty on you’. You are a victim of contractor spies.
Some agencies are circumventing the laws governing references by getting IT contractors to snoop on other contractors.
Number of Contractor Spies
They have a number of contractor spies at various sites that they can call up whenever they are thinking of sending out someone new for an interview.
These contractors are usually ready to croak, for a bit of flattery, about ex- or current colleagues. The prognosis is often not good, especially for someone that they don’t like.
This helps agencies circumvent the law where employers can’t give a bad reference. They can give only a good reference or no reference at all.
Although contractors are not employees, companies tend to have a policy about these things.
Asking contractors about other IT contractors is fairly common practice. Quite a sizeable number of experienced contractors would have come across it.
Agencies have asked me several times in my career for information about other IT contractors. I’ve tended to be either positive about them or been fairly non-commital about contractors that I didn’t rate. I say that they seemed all right, but that I didn’t work closely with them.
However, I was tempted once, when asked for a reference about a contractor that I despised. However, I resisted the temptation to ‘shaft’ him.
I suspect that other contractor spies take the opportunity to take revenge on those that they don’t like, though.
Contractors Spies Tipping Off
Another contractor said that the contractors that agencies usually use for this are ones who get fees from agencies. This is either for supplying them with contractors who get jobs through the agencies, or for tipping the agencies off when their company are looking for contractors.
The contractor spies want to keep this relationship going. So, they are happy to supply information on fellow contractors when requested.
Contractor Spies Legal Position
It would be interesting to see what the legal position of the contractor spies would be if it was discovered that they were giving bad references to fellow contractors.
Whether or not they would fall under the legislation as regards giving references is unlikely. However, they could certainly be sued for libel.
If the contractor spies opinion costs a fellow contractor a 6-month contract, they may well find themselves paying up the full value of the contract plus damages, if anyone ever ‘spills the beans’ about their activities.
If they’re doing it regularly, they could be sued by several people. That’s especially if those people found out that they were sitting at home, with the mortgage unpaid and the wife threatening to leave with the kids, that their enforced absence was due to the opinion of one of their own number.
Database of Contractors
Several agencies contacted said that they saw nothing wrong with this practice. It provided a better service to clients.
Others suggested that there should be a widely used database of contractors who have let customers or other agencies down so that they didn’t need to use this practice.
One agency said, “Employers have become so afraid of laws in this area that they give everybody a good reference. Whereas the contractor spies that we ask tend to ‘sing like canaries’ about other contractors”.
“Information obtained this way is far more likely to be correct, and far more valuable to us. You have to be careful who you ask, though. It is best to ask those with whom you’ve had a good past relationship.”
Says a spokesman, “These guys who regularly pass on opinions on their peers to’friendly’ agencies. They probably don’t realise the legal position that they might be putting themselves into, when they try to do a ‘mate’ a favour, or try to curry favour with particular agencies.
“Agencies should advise their contractor spies about their legal position when they try to solicit back-door information from them about fellow contractors”.