Resolution: SA R29: Promoting Fair and Humane Labor Practices in Qatar

ActionAcknowledged by the President

<br />Dear Jordan,<br /> <br />Thank you for submitting SA Resolution #29: “Promoting Fair and Humane Labor Practices in Qatar” for my consideration.

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<br />Dear Jordan,<br /> <br />Thank you for submitting SA Resolution #29: “Promoting Fair and Humane Labor Practices in Qatar” for my consideration. I appreciate the Student Assembly’s interest and vigilance on the issue of worker conditions and labor practices in Qatar.<br /> <br />As you are no doubt aware, we have addressed many of the same issues raised in Resolution #29 in several previous communications and responses to assembly resolutions as well as to requests from Cornell Organization for Labor Action (COLA) and Amnesty International at Cornell University (AICU). The most recent assembly responses were from then-Acting President Kotlikoff regarding the University Assembly’s Resolution 6 in April 2016, which outlined many of the protections we offer workers and employees at the Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) campus.<br /> <br />With respect to the issues raised in SA Resolution #29, we have been following Qatar’s Law No. 21 since it went into effect in 2015. While we cannot speak for other employers, we have, and will continue to work within the Education City governance structure to express our views and to communicate our principles regarding the ongoing labor reform process in Qatar. Towards this end, as members of the President’s Council convened by the Qatar Foundation, we have continued to convey our standards for contracted labor on our own campuses (which include employment contracts that set compensation, not retaining employee passports, applying overtime standards, and adhering to equal opportunity policies and practices) and to advocate for elevated worker conditions throughout the country.<br /> <br />At the January 2017 President’s Council meeting, at the request of COLA and AICU, I raised the topic of working conditions at the 2022 World Cup construction sites. Her Excellency Sheikha Hind, the Qatar Foundation CEO, acknowledged the Foundation’s need to stay on top of the issue of worker rights surrounding the World Cup and confirmed that it is something they are taking very seriously.<br /> <br />Regarding the resolution’s request that my office provide the dates of future President’s Council meetings, I am not comfortable doing so as these are private meetings; however, as was the case with the January meeting, I encourage the SA, COLA and AICU to continue to communicate with the Office of the President on matters relating to Qatar such that President-elect Pollack has the benefit of your perspectives when she attends those meetings in the future.<br /> <br />Regarding the resolution’s stipulation that “Cornell University reveal whether or not there has been any further evidence against labor abuse occurring on Cornell’s satellite campus in Education City,” I object to the assumption that evidence of labor abuse on the WCM-Q campus already exists, let alone that “further evidence” is to be revealed. In our response to the UA last year, we noted that there have been no labor investigations or audits at WCM-Q by Cornell or any external organizations because there have been no allegations of violations by contracted staff against their employers. That response also listed the policies and practices in place at WCM-Q that ensure Cornell’s standards are being upheld.<br /> <br />I would be interested in knowing if the SA, in formulating the resolution, reached out to counterpart student governance groups at Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM) and at WCM-Q? Campus groups representing these important segments of our Cornell community could offer informed insights to the SA on issues relating to WCM-Q.<br /> <br />Regarding the resolution’s request that the university engage on the issue of unionization in Education City, I note that unions are illegal in Qatar.<br /> <br />Finally, I will reaffirm Cornell’s long-held belief that our ongoing presence in Qatar is the platform through which we can best affect societal change on the issue of worker conditions in the country. Cornell is a vocal advocate for the rights of our contracted staff, providing them with opportunities that go beyond the basic conditions required by contract.<br /> <br />Thank you again for this submission and your ongoing concern for fair and humane labor practices.<br /> <br />Yours sincerely,<br /> <br />Hunter Rawlings<br /> <br /> <br /> <br />Hunter Rawlings<br />Interim President, Cornell University<br />300 Day Hall<br />Ithaca, NY 14853<br />Tel: 607-255-5201<br /><br />