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Foreign workers Cern off the hook over higher wages for researchers

Foreign research instituions are normally researchers' direct employers at Cern, home to the Large Hadron Collider

(Keystone)

Cern’s research institutes have a responsibility to ensure that the people they employ have sufficient financial means to cover their living costs and adequate social support, the Swiss cabinet has said.

The cabinet's conclusions were included in a report on the working conditions and wages for researchersexternal link at the European Organization for Nuclear Research near Geneva. The government had been asked by parliament to look for concrete measures to make sure their situation is improved.

The issue was raised in parliament back in 2014 after reports in the press that the specialist researchers working at Cern were not being treated fairly. Researchers’ working conditions were described as “precarious”. There was an accusation that more and more researchers from all over the world are employed by foreign research institutes on annual contracts, leading to an “uncertain” situation for these people in terms of job security.

Despite Cern being a highly successful and well-respected institution, the parliamentary postulate claimed that its researchers are in reality often not paid enough to live in the expensive Geneva region and not given appropriate health or accident insurance.

Earlier this year Le Temps newspaper reportedexternal link that certain physicists barely earn the minimum wage, and the number of people in such a situation was increasing all the time.

On Wednesday, the Swiss cabinet concluded that Cern is essentially a centre for research exchange, not a direct employer, and that researchers who come to work at Cern and are employed by a research institute, choose to do so. It added that people who come to work there are free to decide where they live, in nearby France or the more expensive location of Geneva.

The cabinet said that while research institutes need to ensure employees can cover their own costs, the organisation does do enough to ensure the financial and social well-being of researchers, and therefore it will not introduce any measures to change the current situation.

Cern currently employs around 12,000 researchers from all over the world and is located on the Swiss-French border, close to Geneva. 

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