Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Night's Eyes Closed

 “We have a bit of bad news… there’s been a miscalculation with your contract.”  -Senior Director Martin


Nothing drains you like desert heat.  Sweltering.  Swarming.  Swirling.   Every day in Saudi was like living in an Easy Bake Oven… hold the Easy!  
 “You’re going to have to teach an extra hour each day… unpaid.”  -Senior Director Martin


The sun never really seemed to set.  Sure, the sky became dark.  I knew it was night because I wasn’t standing in a classroom, but all the relaxation that comes with the end of the day and the natural progression of night’s eyes closed, never seemed to come.
 “We’re all tightening our belts…”  -Senior Director Martin


It’s like this way for people who work manual labor.  Warehouse employees, dish washers, cannery workers, janitors, farm hands, assembly line producers… I’ve worked all those jobs and come home with aching fingers so busted and cut up they couldn’t move.  
 “In addition, once a month, you will have to teach a full day on Saturday… unpaid.”  -Senior Director Martin


I’ve sat in chairs facing TV’s at the end of a hard day’s work and I wasn’t thinking what new book to read or what foreign movie I would select or what fabulous restaurant I was going to try… all I could think about was how in eight hours I needed to be back on the line.
 “It’s also unfortunate that I must inform you… the company will no longer provide free transportation one hour each way to and from the college.”  -Senior Director Martin


By that third week in Saudi, the management team started making changes.  They told us the 24 teaching hours a week in our signed contract actually meant 30.  They told us that random classroom checks would begin immediately and teachers not following the curriculum would be fined.  They took away our contractually required bathroom breaks and allowed us only one twenty minute break between 8 to 12.  They explained teachers not standing for the full 8 hour day would be fined.
 “Lunches will also be deducted from your salary.”  -Senior Director Martin

You can imagine the outrage.  Tempers boiled over.   People threatened to contact the Saudi Labor Board.  There was even talk of just not showing up for work.   The Arabs had us!  It was illegal to even speak of a Worker’s Union and Worker’s Rights were non-existent.  It was also illegal to assemble in groups and discuss any kind of protest.  
“We thank you for your continued professionalism during this difficult stage for the college.”  -Senior Director Marin


We sat in those staff meetings and lowered our eyes.  The Admiral’s brow was so confident.  The Arab men in robes stroked their beards and nodded to each other that it was finished.  Senior Director Martin lowered his voice down to a whisper as he explained, “It’s often that signed contracts do not meet the reality of on the job necessities at ground level.  I trust you will take these new changes in stride.  Thank you, I’ll see you bright and early on the bus tomorrow at 6 a.m.”

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