Thursday, August 1, 2013

Staff Meeting Stare Down

 That first week back from the EID holiday, Senior Director Martin called a meeting.  He had flown in from cushy Bahrain with a message:  Weekend classes would become mandatory.
 His reasoning was thus:  Due to severe sandstorms that hit the Yemen border in June and July, the original semester two end date would be adjusted to the last day of May.
 This meant that the six weeks cut off the end of the semester would need to be made up on weekends by both staff and students.
 Of course, teachers would be paid for this weekend work only at the completion of their contract.  
 He made this announcement in the meeting and we sat there like dead stiffs staring at the floor listening.
 Nobody stood up.  Nobody said a thing.  
 So I spoke up.  I said our contract clearly states there will be only 24 teaching hours in a week, but that the administration has increased this to over 30 hours a week without pay.  Now the school wants to add another 16 hours to our work week?  NO!  WAY!
 Martin explained this was in the best interest of the school adding, “Who doesn’t want an early vacation instead of working two extra months?  We’re looking out for YOU.  Can't  you see that?”
 Then I asked what if a teacher works those weekend classes for a few weeks or months but then must leave Saudi for a family emergency or is let go of the position, by this new agreement, he wouldn’t be compensated for his time because he didn’t complete his contract.
 Martin didn’t blink.  “That’s the incentive for contract completion.”
 Then I explained that the company has shown no good faith in honoring contracts and what’s to stop the company from making us work all these hours and then not paying us at the end of the school year?
 Martin lowered his voice.  “That’s entirely not true.  The reality is, that oftentimes a contract does not accurately represent the situation on the ground.  Adjustments are part of mutual understanding."
 Again, complete silence.  There was no use arguing.  There was no use fighting.  They had my passport and controlled my exit visa.  I was stuck.  
 I then asked when this extra non-contracted, non-guaranteed, non-paid extra hours begin?  Senior Director Martin lowered his voice to an actual whisper, so low you could hear the rushing wind of the air-conditioner and the blinks on the modems taped to the floor.  “These changes will be enacted at the beginning of second semester.”
Our eyes leveled one another.  The meeting was adjourned.  

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