Deadline looming for CNA-Qatar

James McLeod
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Questions raised about the future of college’s Mideast campus

Ann Marie Vaughan — Telegram file photo

Last in a three-part series


After a decade in Qatar, current and former workers at the College of the North Atlantic’s campus in the Middle East are worried about the future.

In just over a year, the overarching comprehensive agreement between Newfoundland and Lab-rador and Qatar will expire, and if it isn’t renewed, the CNA campus there will shut down.

Advanced Education and Skills Minister Joan Burke refused to do an interview with The Telegram for this story. A spokeswoman said that it would be inappropriate for her to speak about contract negotiations in progress.

“Contract negotiations are currently ongoing between College of the North Atlantic and state representatives in Qatar,” the statement from Burke said.

“It is our hope that these negotiations will result in a contract that provides benefits to the people of Qatar through the college and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Liberal education critic Andrew Parsons has been looking into the situation in Qatar for months now, and raised a number of issues in the House of Assembly this spring.

Parsons said employees from the college have been getting in touch, because many of them are worried that the campus will shut down in a year and they’ll be out of a job.

“In the last little while, this government hasn’t exactly been known for its timeliness, and a year is not a lot of time when it comes to a process of this nature,” Parsons said. “We are dealing with the government of Qatar, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador; you’ve got that distance there.

“A year is not actually a lot when you get into a process like this.”

In the past several years, the college has been plagued with management problems and low morale. Employees complain about a “toxic” work environment and at one time, a “dictatorial” senior management.

Moreover, CNA-Qatar has been sued by 10 employees for severance they say they’re owed under Qatari law. In all of the cases that have made it through the courts, judges have sided with the employees and awarded them judgments.

The provision providing for an “end of service gratuity” was brought into law by the Qatari government in 2005, several years after the comprehensive agreement was signed.

Since there is no provision in the comprehensive agreement as to whether CNA or the Qatari government should pay the end of service gratuity, that will likely be one of the issues that needs to be settled before a new agreement is signed.

Parsons said he worries that the end of service gratuity will be the poison pill that foils negotiations.

“Beyond the numbers, my concern is that it’s going to be bad enough to ruin the entire project,” Parsons said.

“There are strains in the relationship as far as I can tell.”

Ill-informed discussion

But Ann Marie Vaughan, president of CNA, said virtually everyone speculating about the agreement doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

“I would totally admit that there are gaps in some of our policies and processes and we’re working diligently on identifying what they need to be and what needs to be put in place from a structural perspective as we move forward,” Vaughan said.

“Anyone who’s speculating otherwise, it’s pure speculation on their part.

“They’re not involved in the discussions.”

A worthwhile endeavour

Despite the problems in Qatar, virtually everybody The Telegram spoke to agreed that the agreement should be renewed.

The Qatar campus doesn’t cost taxpayers anything; in fact, CNA gets paid a management fee of several million dollars every year to run the campus.

Moreover, Vaughan said it’s valuable for the college to have a prominent presence in an important part of the world.

“We were the first institution to allow males and females to study together. We are truly impacting social change and we’re working with the state to accomplish that,” she said.

“You have to really visualize what’s happening there to understand it. It’s a 22-building complex and we’re offering 24 programs.”

The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held in Qatar, and Vaughan said the state is planning to invest $110 billion in it, including all sorts of training for tourism, security and project management positions.

Vaughan said she believes CNA-Qatar will have a role in that.

Parsons was critical of how the government and college administration has run the program thus far, but he agreed that it’s a good project for the government to be involved in.

He said he hopes the government resolves the management and employee morale problems, and works past the end of service gratuity issue.

“That has tangible benefits to us,” Parsons said.

“You can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater here; we have a great thing going.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: CNA, CNA-Qatar, Newfoundland and Lab FIFA

Geographic location: Qatar, Newfoundland and Labrador, Middle East Qatari

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Recent comments

  • X of an employee CNAQ
    October 04, 2012 - 15:08

    The CNAQ campus in Doha distroyed my family. It is certainly not an environment for stable family living. Adultry is on the rise for sure. What a price for Newfoundlanders to pay.

    • Qatar1
      November 01, 2013 - 03:19

      X of an employee CNAQ wrote: "The CNAQ campus in Doha distroyed my family. It is certainly not an environment for stable family living. Adultry is on the rise for sure. What a price for Newfoundlanders to pay". With all due respect, adultery and the breakdown of your family unit cannot be blamed on CNA, CNAQ or the living environment in Qatar. If you or your spouse chose to stray, those were behaviours that were within YOUR control!

  • CNA Employee
    August 08, 2012 - 14:23

    well the way I see it is that is they are accepting under qualified people to teach there electrical programs over there because of who their family members are, they need to shut the doors, they finally got rid of one of the major problems of HR being the former HR manager but there are several more above him who have packed up with their in laws who are under qualified to teach and headed to Qatar, I mean come on when the president of finance heads over you know there is only benefit for him, shut her down and let Alberta run it, all we do is teach from their manuals anyway. We teach because we love what we do and love to pass knowledge along to others, I haven’t met an instructor (trades) who is chasing the money that CAN has to offer.

  • She's gone bye
    July 25, 2012 - 11:00

    The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held in Qatar, and Vaughan said the state is planning to invest $110 billion in it, including all sorts of training for tourism, security and project management positions. Money talks ...remember that they where paying off members of the olympic commite. Middle east- middle ages- this is one corrupt Country. The college follows the same practices over there and can get away with what they want. Some of the Evil people may be gone but the overall head is still there.

  • Miley
    July 23, 2012 - 13:52

    If there was any future, the Minister and the Premier would have been in Qatar for the meetings. Dunderdale backed out at the last minute. Perhaps she was training for the Tely Ten, but either way this looks bad for the future of the college. You make your bed, you then have to sleep in it!

  • government employee
    July 23, 2012 - 13:46

    Wow, this is spin like I have never seen. Not even a positive future comment. Things are really lookin bad over there. TIme to come back to the Rock you guys!

  • Duggan
    July 23, 2012 - 10:34

    You can be certain that Ms. Vaughn and the her buddy the Premier will travel to Qatar (first class) and still will not get a deal to extend the contract.

  • Randy
    July 23, 2012 - 08:57

    The Telegram has made a lot of allegations in these articles but provided very little beyond hearsay to back them up. Sounds like a made up story and very little else.

  • harvey dent
    July 23, 2012 - 08:52

    The College has been working on this new Comprehensive Agreement for years. They actually submitted one to the State a couple of years ago. Still nothing ever happens and as in this article, no sense of optimism on their part. They will never get the State to sign a new agreement as long as they continue to break the rules, take from the employees and break the trust that the State places in them. It appears they are trying to get out of Qatar without paying the money they owe. Then the State will have to foot the bill for that too! We might as well start looking for new jobs now - and we are!