Despite having left academia for good, and for all the best reasons, all my circle of friends and professional contacts is mostly in academia. Some time ago a friend forwarded me the following contract for a researcher position in a university of a non-European country.
It should not come as a surprise that, in some countries, what we consider slavery is still a thing, but you would not expect to be a thing in written form. I report here only the paragraphs that are important, removing the boilerplate stuff. I also render the amounts in euros for ease of comparison. I leave the introductory opening, because it makes a nice (read: creepy) contrast. I will put my comments directly following the relevant fragments.
The two parties, in a spirit of valuable consideration and friendly cooperation, agree to sign this Contract and pledge to fulfill conscientiously all the duties and obligations stipulated in it.
Employee’s annual salary will be 44.000 EUR (3683 EUR/mo). Social insurances are included and all kinds of taxes and fees have to be paid by Employee. 90% of the annual salary will be paid as follows: Employee will be paid 1900 EUR monthly and the rest, which is set as the annual research reward, will not be paid until Employee has passed the annual evaluation. And the other 10% of the annual salary will be paid by the end of the next year when Employee has passed the annual evaluation.
Meaning that, depending on the actual cost of living, one might be forced to work at a loss until the annual research award is given (if it’s given). Note, additionally, that these amounts are before taxes, that there’s no pension contribute, nor any entitled vacation.
Employee shall observe the laws, decrees and relevant regulations enacted by the country’s government and shall not interfere in its internal affairs.
Good morning fascism, it’s been a while. The definition of “interfere” is up to free interpretation, of course, especially when scientific research interferes with political decisions. We’ve seen this already, and it didn’t turn out well. I will also add that the research topic is potentially source of political distress.
Employee shall be evaluated and supervised by Employer according to the duties and obligations stipulated in the Contract
The obligations (which I am not showing here) are extremely detailed requirements for number of publications, quality of journals, teaching duties, all with undefined collaborators at discretion of the Employer.
In the annual evaluation of Employee, if Employee publishes one research paper fewer than the required number, EUR 5700 shall be deducted from his/her annual salary during the 1st and 2nd years of the term of this contract and EUR 4300 shall be deducted from his/her annual salary during the 3rd and 5th years of the term of this contract. But all the deducted money will be returned to Employee if he manages to complete all the duties and obligations by the end of the employment period.
Yeah, I am sure anybody would be glad to work like that, under the whims of referees. And not let’s even consider what happens if you get sick, or have any problem preventing you to publish due to either a collaborator’s resignation, a broken instrument, or any other unforeseen circumstance like it always happens in scientific research, in particular of the experimental on-the-field kind (which is the one we have here).
We talked about resignation. Well, that’s another “funny” point. Read this:
VI. Revision, Cancellation and Termination of the Contract
1. Both parties should abide by the Contract and should refrain from revising, canceling, or terminating the Contract without mutual consent.
Meaning you can’t quit for the duration of the contract (5 years).
4. Under the following circumstances, Employer may terminate this Contract in the form of written notice to Employee:
(1) Where Employee does not perform his/her duty or is incompetent to perform his/her duty
and remains to be incompetent after Employer’s warning.
(2) Where Employee has been proven to use fraud and deception information in the applying materials such as health, education, political performance, academic position and other documents.
(3) Employee has serious discipline breach behaviors or involvement in criminal activities.
(4) Employee unauthorized departure from office prior to the end of his term without consent.
Except for some reasonable points, point 4 restates that you can’t quit. Unless there’s mutual consent, you are not authorized to depart from your office before the end. It’s debatable if, in this case, the word “office” is meant as “work room” or “duty”, but considering what comes next…
VII. Breach Penalty
1. Employee shall pay liquidated damages to Employer if the Contract is terminated due to the occurrence of circumstances described above. The liquidated damages amount for 3 times of the monthly wages Employee has received.
2. Employee shall notify Employer three months in advance if Employee asks to cancel the Contract before the term of this Contract expires. After Employer’s consent, Employee shall pay liquidated damages to Employer and the liquidated damages amount for 3 times of the monthly wages Employer has received.
So if you are fired, or if you quit (assuming they let you go through mutual consent) you have to repay three times what you got until then.
What. The. Hell!
Needless to say, the offered position was refused. I can’t imagine anybody sane in his mind accepting it.