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
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
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
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
We talked about resignation. Well, that's another "funny" point. Read
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
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
(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
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
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.