Resolution: SA R16: Addressing Labor Issues in Qatar

ActionAcknowledged by the President

Dear Juliana, <br /> <br />Thank you for submitting SA Resolution 16, “Addressing Labor Issues in Qatar.” I continue to appreciate the ongoing commitment of many in our campus community to this global issue.

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Dear Juliana, <br /> <br />Thank you for submitting SA Resolution 16, “Addressing Labor Issues in Qatar.” I continue to appreciate the ongoing commitment of many in our campus community to this global issue. It is important that we work toward a common understanding of how Cornell can effect meaningful change through its presence in Qatar.<br /> <br />Cornell’s mission in Qatar is to train a new generation of doctors (men and women) to enable the ongoing transformation of patient care and quality of life in the region. We have been doing this successfully since 2002. The notion, as put forward in SA Resolution 16, that Cornell would mount an effort with all foreign universities operating in the Gulf to monitor workers’ rights across the entire region is, frankly, unrealistic and threatens to divert resources from areas where we can be most effective.<br /> <br />That does not mean we should ignore the working conditions of personnel working at our facilities at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q). To the contrary, and as I stated in my previous two letters to COLA, we are firmly committed to ensuring that those who work for us at WCM-Q, directly or through contracts, are treated in a manner consistent with our own enduring values.<br /> <br />WCM-Q employees receive the same salaries and are covered by the same policies and protections as all Cornell faculty and staff. For contracted staff who work for us in Education City, the WCM-Q administration does and will continue to monitor the working conditions for these employees to ensure conditions meet Cornell’s standards and shared values. We have regular contact with vendors and check in directly with contracted staff to ensure they receive benefits mandated by Qatari law, which include salaries, overtime pay, housing, food or food allowances, and health care cards as stipulated in the contracts with employers.<br /> <br />Beyond what our vendor contracts guarantee, WCM-Q as an institution provides free quality meals; a lunchroom equipped with computers for personal use so that employees can place Skype calls to their home countries; and an expanding selection of classes taught by our students and employees in areas such as English and computers. These are held during lunch breaks or in the evening and can help workers gain new or improved skills if they wish to pursue other types of work.<br /> <br />Similarly, we work with the Qatar Foundation to do the same with regard to its vendors for contracted staff and meet regularly with other branch campuses to discuss ways to improve working conditions across Education City. We also anticipate further improvements as the standards put forth in the Qatar Foundation’s 2013 Worker Welfare Charter begin to be implemented. The Charter addresses needs for food, housing, and workers’ rights.<br /> <br />In addition, WCM-Q’s students, faculty, and staff will soon launch a new community outreach support initiative focused on assisting contracted employees, which will, for example, provide eye exams, eyeglasses, and information on nutrition, health, and lifestyle.<br /> <br />Broader change takes time, but two new laws in Qatar reveal significant progress. The first, already in effect, requires direct deposit of salary into employee bank accounts in Qatar to ensure proper and timely payment for work. The second law, which will go into effect in the next year, helps workers move among employers in Qatar and to leave the country for emergencies or to resign without the employer’s permission. These laws will strengthen workers’ rights across Qatar.<br /> <br />Again, I commend the commitment to the issues raised in Resolution 16. I take that commitment seriously, and I believe that our presence in Qatar and our actions as an engaged, progressive employer provide the platform through which we can best effect change, whether on issues of worker protection and safety or on other issues such as education and improving health care in Qatar.<br /> <br />Sincerely,<br /> <br />Elizabeth Garrett