VIC Term of contract with consulting co.; job at govt dept

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23 April 2021

So, I've been offered a 2 month employment contract. The job is with a govt dept, but legally, my employer would be a consulting company, whose client is the govt dept.

But I've also been offered a 6 month contract elsewhere

So, I rejected the offer of 2 months because I said I'd been offered 6 months elsewhere.

The consulting co. are telling me that, basically, there's no doubt I'd be extended. And that only reason for the 2 months is that their rules are that they can only go to the end of the financial year. And they're pushing hard to get me to accept their offer. I do believe I'd be extended in all probability - I know how these govt contracts tend to go.

BUT, the thought occurs to me: the consulting co. have a contract between themselves and the govt dept. The contract I sign would be between myself and the consulting co., NOT the govt dept.

So, there's no reason why, if the consulting co. are sure that I'll be there for a lot longer than 2 months, that they couldn't make my contract term, say, 6 months.

I'd like to seek some opinions on this situation.

Thank you in advance


Well-Known Member
7 October 2020
Forget the contract between the consulting company and the government department. Unless you're a party to that it means pretty much exactly nothing to you contractually.

Considerations for you:
(a) Is there any obligation under your agreement with the consulting company to (1) put you into that government department?, and (2) if yes, keep you there? If not yes to both, it may not make any difference how long the contract is with the government department. Answering yes to both is a big if. Answering no to either means that any number of issues could see you taken off the job. So this would come down to how confident you are in being sufficiently good to be kept around, and the likelihood of something else jeopardising your tenure.
(b) '...their rules are that they can only go to the end of the financial year'. That sounds to me a bit like code for 'our contract with the government department ends at the end of financial year and needs to be renewed'. Assuming that (yes, assumption, but perhaps not an unreasonable one), you're dependent on that contract being renewed. Look at factors like the following:
- Their history of contract renewal;
- Whether the department is subject to budget cuts;
- Whether the type of work is a 'core funding issue' (i.e. likely to be kept even in a budget cut) or 'discretionary';
- How many others like you are on the same type of job? Lots of workers means more capacity to make cuts where needed - and contracted outsiders go first;
- Are you 'building something' versus 'maintaining something'? Government departments are notoriously good at underestimating what it takes to maintain a system or how well they can accomplish it themselves. They're also less likely to be committed to that upkeep, than they are to appropriations to build something new - which tend to be more strictly budgeted out (and therefore adhered to); and
- There's generally two reasons I see for contracting outside assistance (outside specific policy considerations on a departmental level): (1) They can't do it themselves - which makes you easier to keep around, and (2) They want to make it easy to cut you out when they think they don't need you anymore, because it's a lot harder to fire a public servant than an independent contractor - which makes you easier to get rid of.

All that doom and gloom aside, there is a possibility you could jump ship from the consultant to the government department so long as the agreements (you and them, them and the department) allowed it. Even if they don't you could get consent if the consultant was otherwise getting the boot. All food for thought.