As the College of the North Atlantic – Qatar (CNA-Q) continues to negotiate for a new contract, several employees have expressed concerns about whether they will keep their jobs beyond this summer.
Qatar granted CNA-Q a one-year extension on its original 10-year agreement last year, but that contract now expires in less than six months, with no new agreement yet on the table.
In an interview with Doha News, one employee explains the uncertainty:
“People are quite upset. Many employees are from a small province and would have a hard time finding jobs back home if the college did shut down.
I think many feel it shows a complete lack of leadership at CNA NL and within the Newfoundland and Labrador government. Given that the deadline was known years in advance there is no reason for it to take this long.”
The Canadian Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is paid by Qatar to operate the college, which has operated here since 2002. It currently has over 4,600 students studying courses in Health Sciences, IT, Engineering, Security and Business.
According to Andrew Parsons, a House of Assembly member, the relationship between CNA and Qatar have been strained since 2010, when the Newfoundland and Labrador government admitted to overbilling Qatar by as much as $5 million for unearned salaries, benefits and fees, the CBC reports.
But CNA-Q employees interviewed by Doha News said the delay in signing a new agreement has more to do with a long-running dispute over who should pay “end of service” gratuities to the college’s staff.
Under Qatari Labour Law, employees who leave their jobs are entitled to at least three weeks’ pay from their employers for each year of work. However, CNA-Q’s contracts do not state that employees are eligible for these payments.
Still, in 2010, CNA-Q lost a court case in Qatar against former employees who had successfully sued for the payments, a judgement which is believed to have cost CNA millions of dollars. Any new agreement between CNA-Q and Qatar would need to take this judgement into account.
“Given that there are 750 employees currently and this would in theory be retroactive, it’s a huge sum of money and neither Qatar or NL want to pay for it,” one employee told Doha News.
A ‘sensitive stage’
But many staffers at the college remain upbeat that a resolution is on the horizon.
In a statement issued to Newfoundland newspaper The Telegram, CNA president Ann Marie Vaughan said:
“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.”
Meanwhile, CNA-Q President Dr. Ken MacLeod told the Gulf Times this week that he is confident that the college “will continue to offer high quality technical education to thousands of students in the country.”
And another member of staff interviewed by Doha News expressed similar optimism:
“I would think, in general, that people expect a contract to be in place and are only concerned about the timing of the announcement. There are, of course, the alarmists, but they are in the minority.
Regardless of what happens, students and employees should rest assured that CNA-Q will be here in September. The agreement with the State stipulates a four year phase out in the event of either party discontinuing the partnership.”
Credit: Photos courtesy of CNA-Q on Facebook