he CLA's take on this is that there is little chance for a job finder to negotiate at the time of contract signing and might accept terms they are not totally comfortable with.
I think this is a very good point, although I am a newcomer here I have heard a lot of stories of this nature and this is my take on things:
If you are in Taiwan as a foreigner looking for work teaching English, it is not easy to find a job that doesn't specify a harsh penalty for contract breach, in fact it is all but impossible. Often the school will be unwilling to negotiate on this, especially if you don't have a lot of experience or qualifications, and you feel like even bringing the issue up might cause them not to hire you. It is not unusual, especially in these troubled economic times, for people to be in between a rock and a hard place with regard to work-- If you don't find a job to support yourself and get a ARC you might be forced to move back to your home country where things might be even worse in terms of job prospects. So there is considerable pressure to accept a job offered to you regardless of the contract terms if it will allow you to support yourself here. Also teachers are a dime a dozen right now so if you don't sign the contract, the school doesn't care, they'll just pull out another of the 20 resumes they got this month hire some other schmuck who will sign anything for 600 NT/hour or less.
It's like the Lupe Fiasco song "when niggas gotta eat, that's when shit gets greasy". In an ideal world we could all adhere to gentleman's agreements and there would be no need for contracts or legal disputes. But we don't live in that world, especially nowadays teachers often find themselves in a position where they just have to sign a contract for whatever job they can get and hope that if the school tries to enforce it strictly hope the CLA can bail them out. That's not something to be proud of, to be sure, but it's the law of the jungle and both employers and teachers know it so there's no point in pretending otherwise, a contract in this case is not a gentleman's agreement but rather a starting place for negotiations should things turn ugly.