Province mum on CNA-Qatar contract

James McLeod
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Employees in the dark as deadline looms

Andrew Parsons

In less than six months, if the government doesn’t sign a new agreement with Qatar hundreds of employees at the College of the North Atlantic campus there could be out of work.

Nobody really knows what’s going on, but employees — many from this province — are getting worried.

“As of July 2nd everyone is out of work and out of the country,” said one employee, who spoke to The Telegram via email on the condition of anonymity. “The Canadians have to arrange to move their lives home and find new work before then. This is significant. You cannot find a new job in Canada and move countries on a day’s notice.  Employees here are very upset.”

Since 2002, the College of the North Atlantic has operated a campus in Qatar; the provincial government gets paid by Qatar for running the school.

The school was originally set up under a 10-year “comprehensive agreement” between Qatar and Newfoundland and Labrador.

That agreement expired last year, but the governments signed a one-year extension, which expires on Aug. 31.

But for the employees who work at the college’s Middle East campus, the school year ends on July 2nd, and if there’s no new agreement signed, they’re done.

Neither Advanced Education and Skills Minister Joan Shea nor the college had much to say on the subject.

A spokesman for Shea said she would not comment on the situation.

In an emailed statement, CNA president Ann Marie Vaughan said she can’t talk about the situation while negotiations are happening.

“Discussions are ongoing with the State of Qatar, we are optimistic that we will be able to report soon. As we are at a sensitive stage in these discussions we prefer not to comment further.”

But Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons said the lack of answers really leaves college employees hanging.

“Regardless of which way it’s going, the people that are directly affected by it, employees and family, I think they have a right to know where this stands,” he said.

Parsons has been vocal on the issues surrounding the CNA Qatar campus. He said he’s convinced that it’s a good project, and he wants to see the comprehensive agreement renewed, but he also thinks that the government has managed it poorly.

“One of the concerns is that there are a lot of people that are over there that are saying, ‘Look, where am I going to be next year? What am I going to do?’” Parsons said. “Obviously not everybody is going to just sit back and wait and have the rug pulled out at the last minute.

“Some of these people might already be planning exit strategies, which can’t be good for any organization.”

The CNA-Qatar campus is one of the largest post-secondary institutions in Qatar, and proponents argue that it has had major benefits for the province.

But there have also been financial management issues; bureaucratic confusion led to a mistake that cost Newfoundland and Labrador taxpayers $5 million in overpayments to college employees.

Twitter: TelegramJames


Organizations: CNA, CNA-Qatar

Geographic location: State of Qatar, Canada, Middle East Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Elizabeth
    January 24, 2013 - 07:28

    To lose this contract would be a backward step for NL. This is a major project, in the richest country (highest GDP per capita) in the world. I hope our government has the vision to realize that they should be supporting and expanding these international opportunities, not letting them slip away. This is a financial opportunity for the province and jobs for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, who, like me, are working at CNA-Q and paying full Canadian and NL taxes. Moreover, the value of cross cultural contact and cross cultural understanding should not be underestimated. This is the kind of contact western countries need with Arab countries, and I hope our government has the insight and global awareness to recognize the full scope of this project.

  • DJ
    January 16, 2013 - 22:04

    Here are the FACTS.... The government of Qatar pays all expates in their country, an end of service payment... its actually required in Qatar Labour Law. Over the past ten years of the College Contract, the government of Qatar paid the Government of Newfoundland approx. 25 million for this "end of service payment". This money was suppose to go directly to each employee and earned for working in Qatar. However, the Government of Newfoundland decided to keep this 25 million and place it in general revenue.... the employees were not paid!! Now the Government of Qatar is refusing to sign a new contract until this money is paid to the employees as was its intention.... the Government of Qatar is pissed over this "theft". ... and these are the FACTS !!!

  • Just Checking
    January 16, 2013 - 11:16

    Yes, Newfoundlanders pay Canadian and NL taxes as long as they don't give up their Canadian residency (after 5 years if they decide to stay). Thus other Canadians do the same. So both governments have made lots of money off the faculty and staff at CNA-Q.

    • Joe
      January 16, 2013 - 13:04

      To Just Checking, of the total employees there, how many have "given up their residency", as you call it, and do these "pay-no-taxers" really expect the NL government to make sure they have a job!!! Sounds like those passport Canadians of a few years ago. Where's the logic?

  • EuroNoof
    January 16, 2013 - 09:04

    I struggle to see the news item here - at least from the perspective being peddled here. Correct me if I misread, though I admit to oversimplifying, but there are several hundred Canadian employees at this facility who at the moment have either 6 or 8 months (depending on their position) lead time to find another job and make the necessary arrangements. Anyone who waits until Canada Day and has to “find a new job in Canada and move countries on a day’s notice” has either taken the risk that a deal doesn't get done or is a victim of nothing more than their own failure to react to their situation. If the news item was instead about lost revenues for province and/or CNA due to mis-handling of the negotiations, then that's a different story. I'm all for people being treated fairly, but this seems more about people playing the victim card rather than taking responsibility for themselves. Thanks.

  • kevin walsh
    January 15, 2013 - 20:40

    yes CONA,Qatar campus is one of the vital and major economic boosts to our province and would be sad if these jobs were lost! I am a worker who also works out of province in Alberta with hundreds more who also contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to the economy of our province. Does this government realize what the thousands of Newfies who work around the globe contribute to the booming economy of NL? They seem to be so wrapped up in the few jobs that Muskrat falls will provide? Time this government wake up and smell the roses.....

  • John
    January 15, 2013 - 15:01

    Well, knowing how this government loves to see NL lose work if it isn't related to Oil or Muskrat falls they will probably lose the contract and just call it business as usual.

  • starr
    January 15, 2013 - 14:45

    Uninformed people (including nasty and jealous) please do your homework before commenting on this issue, especially Randy.

  • Joe
    January 15, 2013 - 14:40

    Do all these employees pay full Canadian income taxes like the rest of us, or are they just loving making big salaries and paying "zero" taxes? Some want their cake and eat it too. The NL govt has to look at this in their assessment as well, not just support a glamour project. I wonder how much monetary benefit this project brings to NL on a net net basis.

    • Exiled Canuck
      February 16, 2013 - 11:55

      It is my understanding that only Canadians who are judged as "non residents" pay no taxes to Canada. Getting this status ( or judgement) from CCRA is easier said than done. A version of Catch-22.

  • John
    January 15, 2013 - 10:25

    In response to Randy's comments, I can assure you that we are not talking about a few dozen Newfoundlanders but at least a couple of hundred on site and dozens more in NL whose jobs depend on that project. These are well paid positions and a great deal of their income ends up being spent in NL. The project is an economic benefit to the province, not to mention how much it has raised the profile of the province abroad. The tangible benefits to NL are easily calculated and the intangible benefits are many, if one takes the time to consider them. To "taxpayer" (which by the way is most Canadians of working are not unique) I would say that there are some retired teachers who are working in Qatar...I don't see the problem with that...., but most are young Newfoundlanders and mainlanders who are paying off student loans, mortgages, and putting their children through university in Canada. All benefits to the province and the rest of the country. The Qatar campus is not a make work project that is costing taxpayers; quite the contrary. You either need to do a little research (learning is a good thing), or you need to do a remedial math course, or both. So, in conclusion, I would say that before you go spouting off about things you clearly know nothing about, you might want to educate yourself a little lest you sound foolish. The fact that the internet makes it easy to make nonsensical, thoughtless commentaries does not make them any less silly and callous.

  • saelcove
    January 15, 2013 - 10:06

    I know some one who went to this collage and said it was nothing but a farce

    • ada smith
      January 15, 2013 - 10:48

      I worked at CNAQ for 7 years. The college is NOT a farce. It has provided a valuable service not only for Qatari nationals and children of foreign expatriates working in the Gulf, but also to Canadians (the whole of Canada is represented). The opportunity to experience other cultures through working and socializing with people of different cultures and through travelling to many countries, and the opportunity of showing off our beautiful country of Canada, has been invaluable, for both countries. What this exposure has done for Newfoundland can NOT be discounted. I hope a good resolution is found soon.

  • Dan
    January 15, 2013 - 09:38

    Shea is only concerned if the jobs move to her riding, maybe she can move Qatar to Bay St. George!

    • Jason
      January 16, 2013 - 11:57

      Joan Burke hasn't done anything for her riding in the 10 years she has been in government. The only government related job creation that has taken place here has occured as the result of actions being carried out under the Liberal government prior to 2003. Plus, the Qatar Project office is located in Stephenville anyway, so technically it's already here, and has been since the deal with Qatar was set up in 2002 (before the PC's took control of government).

  • NowIsee
    January 15, 2013 - 09:17

    There are over 650 employees working there now. Not sure of the amount of NFLD'ers but I know of a few dozen there myself. They are ALL worried about their future with CNA-Q

  • taxpayer
    January 15, 2013 - 09:07

    From a financial standpoint does the Province make money from this, or does it cost the taxpayers? Job loss is never a nice thing, but look at the age and skills of many of the "instructors" and you will find they are retired from jobs in NL, or are quite capable of finding work here in the province. So the big picture is not as bad as the opposition may lead you to believe. Perhaps this is a good thing for us to cut, and as Randy said, try and get our house in order here in NL. From my experiences, the CNA operation here in NL is far from a well-oiled machine!!!!

    • C
      January 15, 2013 - 11:28

      The College here in Newfoundland and the Governement has made millions from the campus in Qatar.

    • Jack
      January 15, 2013 - 11:47

      I'm not sure why the reporter says it cost the taxpayer $5m. According to the college anual report on page 35 they made $8m last year and $7m the year before in qatar. Not bad money. Enough to make me rich

  • C
    January 15, 2013 - 08:35

    Randy - just to clarify.... We're actually talking about several HUNDRED Newfoundlanders (plus several hundred more Canadians).

  • Anna Paccione
    January 15, 2013 - 08:10

    Hi Randy, I just read your comment and although I'm not a Newfoundlander and I do have a secure job back home, I am surprised at your comment. Do you have any compassion at all? Please know I'm not trying to be disrespectful or rude or offensive. Happy New Year...Showers of blessings :)

  • Randy
    January 15, 2013 - 06:49

    How many NFLDers are we talking about here really? A few dozen? Much a do about nothing as usual? How about we focus on issues closer to home?