CNA-Qatar letter raises more questions about employment issues

James McLeod
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A letter from College of the North Atlantic president Ann Marie Vaughan to college employees in Qatar raises more questions than answers for Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons.

The letter, sent to employees last Thu-rsday appears to address an ongoing legal fight between employees and management over “end of service gratuity” payments — a form of severance required under Qatari law — but Parsons said he still wants more answers.

“There’s a lot of questions, and it comes back to the fundamental point: show us the information,” he said.

For years, employees have been suing the College of the North of Atlantic in Qatari court for the end of service gratuity and consistently winning payment.

But in last week’s letter, the college now says that it won a ruling on Dec. 25 from Qatar’s highest court — the Court of Cassation.

“The employment contracts for CNA employees working at CNAQ are, as stated clearly in the contracts, Canadian employments governed by Canadian law,” Vaughan wrote in the letter. “From this point forward we will be passing all matters dealing with end of service gratuity on to the Qatar authorities on the basis that employees are not entitled to this benefit.”

It’s not clear whether it’s related to this issue, but in the same letter, Vaughan says that from now on, employees will have to sign their employment contracts on Canadian soil.

The Telegram requested more information from CNA and an interview with Vaughan; a spokesman for the college said that they are still communicating with employees and signing new contracts, and until that’s done, they won’t be making a comment.

Information surrounding the whole issue is thin. It is not clear how much money has been paid out by the college over the years in end of service gratuity payments, but individual payments to workers have been thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

According to correspondence between CNA’s lawyer and an employee, provided to The Tele-gram, the college has an English language translation of the Court of Cassation ruling — the original is in Arabic — but the lawyer would not provide it publicly.

Similarly, it’s not clear why the college took more than five months to communicate with employees about the Court of Cassation ruling.

“Six months has passed here, and we still haven’t seen the decision,” Parsons said.

“I find it disconcerting, but

then, maybe there is some reason behind that. Maybe the translation took some time. Maybe they needed time to have their legal staff review it.”

The requirement that employees sign their contracts in Canada also sets up a potentially sticky situation for workers. Employees have been complaining in recent weeks that the college is leaving it to the 11th hour to sign new employment contracts.

In early July after the school year ends, employees will come back to Canada. In recent weeks, Parsons said he’s been hearing from workers who are worried about being faced with a take-it-or-leave-it contract offer.

“Leaving a job here is so much different than in Canada,” one employee said to The Telegram in an e-mail.

“You have to close all of your bank accounts and credit cards, cancel your residency, book and pay for flights (that are now filling up), sell your cars, clean out and sell all of your personal furniture.”

If employees won’t be signing new contracts until they get back to Canada, that could further complicate things.

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: CNA

Geographic location: Qatar, Canada, Atlantic

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Recent comments

  • joey
    June 10, 2013 - 11:37

    The credit cards issued by Qatari Banks must be cancelled, and the bank will freeze Qatari bank accounts funds from 30 - 45 days to ensure they do not lose any $$ from transactions not yet processed. It is not difficult to manage the Qatar campus if there are good leadership, communication, and management practices in place and polices and procedures are clearly defined and applied. Qatar doesn't cost the NL taxpayer anything - it is fully funded by the Qatari government.

  • Another CNA-Q Employee
    June 06, 2013 - 10:05

    @ Bob - The reference to credit cards was not about preparing to leave Canada. It was about what we as employees have to do to leave Qatar permanently. By putting off the new contracts as the college has done they've placed the employees in a very tough spot. @ the rest of the world - At this point it's hard not to feel ignored and frankly disrespected by the people running CNA-NL. The reality is the state of Qatar is paying for CNA-Q. The salary for every single teacher at this college is paid for by the Qataris in addition the college also recieves an extra sum of money equivalent to 25% of the employees salary which was meant to cover benefits (which depending on who you speak with, includes the end of service benefit - which, if the college paid it out would be about 6% of that 25%). Unfortunately it seems as if the college is intent upon keeping as much of that 25% as possible. Overall, whether the people over here are working as residents or non-residents at the end of the day our presence and work in this region has been positive for both the Qataris and Newfoundland & Labrador. This project is bringing money into NL.

  • Bob
    June 06, 2013 - 00:52

    To J McLeod: It s not necessary to cancel residency or credit cards to work overseas on this contract. The only reason to cancel such things is to be "deemed a non-resident" and avoid paying Canadian taxes.

  • CNA-Q Employee
    June 05, 2013 - 07:44

    I just would like to remind everyone that the 17 campuses as well as the one in Qatar do have problems, but also many strengths. The dedicated employees throughout the college remain dedicated to providing quality education for students. In times of turmoil, we need to remember this and acknowledge the importance of a college education.

  • Billy boot
    June 04, 2013 - 22:57

    Its true. The new President has never met with employees in Qatar. Management on the ground has no use for CNA and the situation is dire. This place is is as toxic a workplace as one has ever seen. The ineptitude in dealing with employees and contracts is truly breathtaking. CNA has turned this project into a simple cash machine with no concern for employees or anything else.

  • Joe
    June 04, 2013 - 19:17

    Do all of the other seventeen or eighteen campuses of CNA take up as much time or cause as much grief as this one? Is it really worth the effort? For about ten years now, I've been reading or hearing about legal battles, discrimination, morale problems, respectful workplace issues, nepotism, and so on. Is it really so difficult to manage a campus in Qatar? If so, then why bother!

  • Bill
    June 04, 2013 - 15:51

    Why is this news?

    • Joe
      June 05, 2013 - 21:13

      Sounds like CONA is stalling to initiate more bargaining power by instilling more fear into their employees minds! They still have a contract with the Qatari government which has to be fulfilled. If they keep their employees in limbo then maybe others will not want to go there in the future. This will jeopardize the contract and result in more legal baggage for them.