Condemning AUC administration’s coercion and termination of housekeeping staff
Statement by concerned AUC alumni, students, staff and faculty RE termination of housekeeping staff
On 17 July 2017, AUC administration announced its decision to outsource housekeeping services to two external companies, resulting in the termination of approximately 256 of AUC’s staff. Many of the housekeeping staff had worked at AUC for over ten years and provided crucial services to the university. None of them were consulted prior to this decision. As a result, they decided to protest their termination peacefully within the university walls and without interfering with normal university functions. In an unprecedented and shocking development, the Administration reported the protesters to the authorities and coerced them into leaving the campus and accepting an unfair settlement.
The undersigned faculty, students, and alumni of AUC are appalled and outraged by the actions taken by the Administration. We find the actions of the Administration at complete odds with the academic mission of the university, its social responsibility, and its 98-year legacy. We are particularly outraged by the following:
- The Administration reported 50 protesting workers to the police with fabricated accusations. These workers were not trespassers; they were AUC employees who were exercising their legitimate right to peacefully protest unfair labor practices. The Administration coerced the workers into leaving campus, where they remained in clear sight of two police cars. The Administration blatantly informed the workers that it would only withdraw the police reports if they were to sign resignations and forego their right to legal action and to speak out about the injustice they suffered.
- Throughout the protest, the Administration was in blatant disregard of the workers’ fundamental human dignity and failed to recognize their years of dedication and service. The Administration limited protesters’ access to food and drinking water, sent messages to the workers’ mobile phones after midnight giving them a few hours to accept an unfair settlement, arbitrarily deactivated their ID cards, restricted them from entering their place of work, and reported the workers to the police.
- The Administration refused to clearly specify - in writing - to individual workers specific commitments on pending issues including medical treatment for work-related health concerns, educational benefits to workers or their dependents.
- The Administration disregarded basic principles of good faith and due process, by refusing to conduct any serious consultation with the workers before making a final decision on their future. The Administration failed to incorporate any input from workers’ representatives in the agreement they forced upon the workers.
- The Administration continues to hide behind the lower protections provided to temporary workers, conveniently ignoring the fact that most temporary workers have been at the university for many years, and that international labor standards forbid an employer from using temporary work contracts to escape its obligations.
In consideration of the above, the undersigned would like to express in the strongest possible terms that the actions of this Administration do not represent us. We demand the following for the restoration of minimum trust between the Administration and its various constituencies:
- An immediate and public apology from the Administration, in the name of the President of the University, the Vice President for Planning, Administration and Finance, and the Head of the Legal Department, to the laid off staff and the larger AUC community for the violation of a long history of principles and ethics on which AUC as an institution has been established. This apology must include a pledge to never use similar coercion tactics, and to never report workers or any other member of the university body for peacefully protesting. It must also absolve the workers of the undertakings they signed under duress that prohibit them from talking to the press or initiating legal action.
- The Administration must convene the workers and their lawyers to start arm’s length negotiations in good faith for fair and balanced severance packages. The outcome of these negotiations will apply to all workers without discrimination. The Administration must allow workers to include internal or external representatives in the negotiations.
- As a minimum, any negotiated severance package must specifically address transitional issues including a compensation of 2 months for each year of service, medical insurance for the workers and their dependents for a year, and proper education benefits.
- Unrestricted access for all terminated workers to the old and new campuses.
We also call on the University Senate to assume its responsibilities by denouncing the recent actions of this Administration through a resolution expressing their sincere regret as well as gratitude to the workers, and a symbolic vote of no confidence in the administration's actions.
We believe that AUC’s mission, community, and international standing will be seriously compromised if these coercive tactics are normalized. As members of the AUC community with long histories and commitments to the institution, we expect a swift response and a confirmation of action regarding the demands listed above.