CNA-Qatar letter raises more questions about employment issues

James McLeod jmcleod@thetelegram.com
Published on June 4, 2013

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.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames