Talal Al Awamleh: “FUCK THE WESTERN WAY!!!”


Lots has happened this last week.

And it has been extremely traumatic.

I slept all day yesterday and again all night. Total = about 30 hours sleep in 36. Must mean something as I’m usually a short sleeper.

The day before I was fired. Again. But I think I should tackle things in order.

I should also add that I have recorded every meeting I have had with Ibrahim this last week so anything I say can be proven from his own mouth.

SUNDAY 14TH FEBRUARY, 2016

I was fired on Sunday for allegedly organising a meeting to try to incite the crew to go on strike on Monday. This is ironic considering Ibrahim was the person who originally said we should go on strike. It’s additionally ironic since the meeting in question (mentioned at length in my post dated Feb 14th called “I’ve Been Fired!”) is the one in which it was agreed no strike should happen.

The reality is that I tried very hard to get ATP to draft a contract the crew would sign. But ATP (Ibrahim and then Talal) both demanded the contract be on their terms. They claimed the contract was meant to protect the crew. But since when has a contract that had no termination or resignation clause ever protected the crew? I’m attempting to get a copy of the contract because there was some other dodgy stuff in it.

Anyway, so I was fired. And then, later that afternoon, I had a phone call from Talal (my first!). It started okay. Clearly he wanted something and it was pretty obvious what. Sure enough, it quickly became apparent he wanted me to sign the contract (“What is it with this contract anyway?” I wondered.). I explained that the newly included termination clause (they were agreeing to add that at least) had to be flexible. He insisted it had to be at least six weeks for HoDs such as myself to make sure any hand-overs were done properly.

This presented problems:

  1. I have not been paid since I got back and here he was telling me to sign a contract that could keep me here for another six weeks (add on the three weeks off for Christmas without pay and that’s over two months) with no guarantee of being paid. By then, my family would be homeless.
  2. A hand-over does not have to take six weeks.

No matter how many times I told Talal no-one would agree to a six-week termination clause when they have not been paid (don’t forget ATP was telling us we must sign before being paid), Talal — just like Ibrahim before him — would not have it. Talal said the same thing, “If you sign, your team must sign. That is how it works.”

Just as I had told Ibrahim, I now found myself telling Talal that, “I don’t know how it works in the Middle East, but I can tell you that it does not work that way in the west. No westerner will sign a contract just because his boss did.”

Talal pushed and pushed. But I kept saying, “Talal, no-one will sign just because I did. Westerners don’t think that way.” At which point, Talal shouted (and I remember this vividly as I was so shocked);

Talal: “FUCK THE WESTERN WAY!!!”
Me: “What?”
Talal: “FUCK THE WESTERN WAY!!!”
Me: “Er, Talal. What am I supposed to say to that?”
Talal: “I DON’T CARE! FUCK THE WESTERN WAY!”
Me: “Seriously? Talal, do you want me to tell the crew you said that?”
Talal: “I DON’T CARE!”
Me: “I don’t know what to do with that. How is that supposed to help?”

Around this time, Talal got really mad. And I mean REALLY mad. Lunatic mad. He started to accuse me of sabotaging the project. He told me I was “a racist” after he just screamed “fuck the western way”. He told me I was not human, a monster, the worst person he had ever spoken to. He was raving and he sounded like a total lunatic. No wonder all his employees are scared of him. But I was no longer his employee. And although he owes me $15,500, since I do not believe for one second he will pay me (though I will try to get it), he did not have that hold over me. And he clearly did not like it.

But despite the abuse I was getting from him, I tried reasoning. I pointed out that my remark was not racist; that I was pointing out a possible cultural difference and trying to get him to understand that, because I could not help him if he did not. I told him I was trying to help. That everyone wanted to sign a contract (which was true) but it had to be fair.

Now for the record, let’s establish something. I was trying to help ATP. I don’t like them. I think they should be fired. I think they are evil. The most evil people I have ever met. I am certain they have embezzled millions. They are nasty. They bully, threaten, lie. But if there was a way to make it work, for the sake of the show and the crew, I was willing to try.

Because the way I see it, if ATP were a person, that person would be mentally ill. And mentally ill people need to be helped, right? But how? First, in ATP’s case, strip them of their power so they can’t use that power to force their will on others. Then, once they have no choice but to bargain, use that to try and get them to see reason. In a way, that was happening here. Because the thing I noticed about Talal during this ‘conversation’ was that;

  1. He was clearly desperate. Why else would he call me to request something (which I imagine he must have hated doing) after I had been fired?
  2. He was acting like a child – totally reactionary. So I knew I could calm him down if I said something along the lines of what he wanted to hear – which I did and it worked – and I needed time to figure out what on earth was going on.

So sure enough, I started to reason with him and I started to make it sound like I might sign the contract. At which point he said, “I can tell you are a good man.” and “You have a good heart.”

So let me get tis straight. In less than ten minutes I went from being the worst person he had ever spoken to, a racist, non-human to being a good man with a good heart. Wow!

At which point I said, “So I’m confused. Am I fired or not?”

Talal: “If you sign the contract, you are not fired.”

Hmmmmm……

Last time I checked, that’s called blackmail. Or is it duress? With a nice big slice of psychological abuse thrown in. Because over the course of the week, ending with this call, I sure did feel psychologically abused.

I’m kind of joking with that last remark, but the truth is I was having one of the worst weeks of my life.

ATP had clearly targeted me. They thought if they got me (the allegedly most senior person in the Art Dept) to sign, others would have to follow. But that would never work. I knew because I’d been talking to the crew all week. Those who had seen the contract, did not like it. Also, I could not ask people to sign a contract that I knew was not in the crew’s best interest. This was a contract that would effectively make the international crew ATP’s prisoner for at least another six weeks (the original version would have made them a prisoner for life!). Never mind that I would be wrong to ask them to do this, I knew no-one would agree! So I tried to get ATP to amend the contract, to allow people to read it before signing, to allow them legal council, and ATP fought me every step of the way.

Anyway, to conclude with Talal, now that he thought I would sign, he was calm and pleasant. He had told me I could have my job back if I did. He told me to go see Ibrahim now. The call ended.

A few minutes later, I found out that ‘Susan’ had tried to kill himself three times. I was very very upset. How could it come to this? How could a company drive a man to be so much in despair he would try to kill himself three times?^

At the time, I believed this was entirely ATP’s fault. It turns out now that wasn’t quite true – he had other issues. But ATP did contribute because they did bully him. They did demand the impossible of him and threatened to fire him if he failed. And when he snapped, what did they do? They tried to stick him on a plane and get rid of him despite knowing if they did, his third suicide attempt would very likely not be his last…

After hearing about ‘Susan’, I felt utterly destroyed.

How could I possibly sign anything with these people?

These people were monsters……

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