31 March 1971, the Director General of the INRA therefore terminated Grandpa's contract, on paper with Republic of France header, for the reason that said contract had allowed all work concerning both parties to be completed by 31 March 1971. A few months later, on 31 December to be precise, he retired.
8 March 1972… Grandpa.
As a researcher contracted to the INRA, I was dismissed by your predecessor on 31 March 1971 for having performed all the work concerning both parties respectively by this date. This decision was taken under the circumstances detailed in the enclosed file, and which I did not oppose since the reason given more or less matches the reality.
This having been said, my contract would normally have ended on 31 December 1973, and this decision involved a saving of about three years relative to the work commissioned to me… At the time of participation, the INRA, which decided to dismiss me for this reason, should therefore pay me, by right, at least the balance of salary and bonuses which I would have received if, in line with required norms, I had used the time initially allocated to complete my work. The Republic of France saved three years of social contributions, equipment and running costs and a solution of this type would simply be the decent thing to do.
However, your predecessor refused to discuss the subject. I would therefore be pleased to meet with you to work out a solution to this affair.
16 March 1972… the laboratory director.
I have received a letter today from the Institut de Recherches pour les Huiles et Oléagineux (Research institute for oils and oleaginous products), asking me for a personal assessment, following your application to this establishment. I would like to inform you that the tone and content of your letter of 8 March to the Director General of the INRA were such that I can only do so with certain reservations.
21 March 1972… the new Director General of the INRA.
In the letter referred to, you asked me to meet with you to discuss the problem which, according to you, was raised by your dismissal on 31 March 1971. You feel that since the INRA dismissed you on that date, it owes you the balance of salaries and bonuses which you would have received legally if, instead of terminating your work prematurely, you had ended on 31 December 1973 when your contract would normally have ended.
I am sorry to inform you that the INRA paid you all that you were due to receive up to 31 March 1971 and owes you nothing beyond that date since you were no longer a member of personnel. I would remind you that either party was free to terminate the contract at any time, with prior notice of two months (see article 7 of the contract). This provision was respected because the decision to end your contract was notified on 11 January 1971. Under these circumstances, I do not think a meeting would be useful.
17 May 1972... Grandpa.
In reply to your letter referred to above, I would inform you that I shall be in Paris next week and will call you to try and obtain the meeting I requested which was refused.
Indeed, however interesting your way of seeing things, it ignores one important detail. The policy applied for the selection of researchers was clearly defined as follows: "We do not need researchers, we need finders" (The President of the Republic in 1967). It is therefore impossible for your predecessor, Director General of a State Institute, to have dismissed me for having found, without committing any professional misconduct:
- professional misconduct which explains the fact that neither my contract nor the statutes, nor existing laws provide for the compensation which simple common sense shows I should be due;
- professional misconduct which is very strange in so far as there were other reasons to dismiss me. The director of the physiopathology laboratory accused me, above all, of not understanding that we work in a system where there are big and small people, and that small people must know when to back down (this is how he defined the system of hierarchy to me). Under these conditions, why was I not dismissed for that reason and sent before a disciplinary committee as was provided for in the statutes?
In this context, the letter sent by this gentleman on 16 March, a copy of which I enclose here, takes on a particular aspect which we must discuss.
I look forward to meeting you soon, etc.
The following Wednesday… An appointment was made for midday. At half-past twelve, Grandpa was still waiting at the door, and when it finally opened it was the personnel manager who was waiting to see him. The Director General was very busy.
The personnel manager was a lawyer. It was presumably he who had drawn up the above-mentioned letter and he was ready to justify this, explaining and re-explaining his point of view…This was not the thing to do to settle matters, since Grandpa's long wait at the door had not put him in a good mood.
In any case, after half an hour, Grandpa said to the personnel manager: "In brief, you made a mistake. Talk you your Minister in charge so that he can authorise you to settle the problem". The personnel manager replied: "You know, for us, the Minister of Agriculture is the fifth wheel on the cart. The only Minister who is important to us is the Minister of Finance who sends inspectors to go through our accounts. The only thing I can offer you is a new job at the INRA. But you will have to go in by the side door". This proposal did not tempt Grandpa at all. He knew what he needed to know. The Republic as well. And then the INRA, he knew. The interview was over.
So there was Grandpa, a simple private individual (he knew he would not find another job in research), with scientific results he no longer had any use for. To avoid being accused one day of having deliberately kept to himself data which could be used to advance a great deal of research, he contacted the ministers concerned (Education, Research, Health, Agriculture and Finance) with an offer to spend one, two or even three weeks training scientists who may be interested. Preferably young scientists because established scientists were generally already part of a system of thought which was far from reality. Not for nothing of course: for a symbolic franc, one franc per person living in France…, a pittance compared with the savings they could make on useless or poorly-oriented research, in generations of students trained in fantastical theories, etc. Of course he did not receive any replies, but he had done all he could and his conscience was now at peace. After all, you can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink.
P.S. I almost forgot: the Peter Principle is a little book which discusses the behaviour of people in hierarchical systems, which you can find in any good bookshop. I recommend that you read it. Here are three passages from memory:
- In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence;
- Anyone who has reached his own level of incompetence may eventually suffer from "hypofiddleophobia", a sort of sick terror engendered by the presence of an over-competent second-fiddle.
- "Hypofiddleophobia" can be cured, the treatment being always the same: the second-fiddle is fired as being the source of the problem.