Let’s go back a little.
WEDNESDAY 10TH FEBRUARY, 2016
Ibrahim had promised we would be paid no later than today. If we were not paid, he told Neil, you have every right to strike the next day.
So we waited.
And nothing happened.
Instead, I got a phone call at 1pm asking me to meet Majid and Ibrahim in the lobby of the Millennium Hotel at 3pm. Just me. I didn’t like the sound of that.
So I hurried back to the hotel and got my iPhone 5c so I could try to record what they might say. And at 3pm, I was waiting for them in the lobby with it recording.
I met with Majid, Ibrahim and a lawyer about 3:15pm. The meeting lasted over 5 1/2 hours. It started off with them saying they could not pay us because the investors were insisting we sign a contract with ATP first. So now we had to sign a contract to get paid?
Ibrahim showed me the contract. It was obvious what was meant to happen. I was meant to sign it there and then. But I have a rule. Never sign without having had council read it first. No. Matter. What.
I read it. There were problems.
- No termination clause.
- No resignation clause.
- Terms that basically said you could not leave the series until it was finished – even if they never finished it.
- The inclusion of other ATG dramas so they could transfer you to another series (or country) without your approval.
- No date by which invoices must be paid.
- No mention of whether you were agreeing to be paid weekly, monthly, yearly…
- No right to take time off on holidays.
- No right to overtime pay.
- No insurance.
- No right to turn down shooting irregular hours and (unpaid) overtime.
- 72 hours per week in a country where it is illegal to work more than 48 (though the contract was under Jordanian law, we were working in Qatar).
- No right to take other jobs in the event of Force Majeure but no pay either.
It went on and on.
I made notes on this stuff. Ibrahim said they would type up my changes that evening. I said I would check it again in the morning with a fresh mind in case I had any more observations.
THURSDAY 11TH FEBRUARY, 2016
The next afternoon, Ray and I met Ibrahim again. The lawyer (Yazed Kanan) was with Ibrahim. Ibrahim told Ray and I that everything I had asked for had been added. There was two copies of the contract. One for Ray. One for me. Our details were on them. The lawyer told us that these contracts were designed to protect us. They seemed eager for us to sign straight away. I smelled a rat and I began to check the contracts.
There was no termination clause. Ibrahim had lied.
The contract did not protect our interests at all. The lawyer had lied.
The contract was a complete lie.
This immediately reminded me of another incident:-
When Chris Richmond was designer, and before I came on board, he had his agent renegotiate terms of the contract. Stuff like “if you leave early, you must pay back all your wages:” was removed. So Chris signed the new improved contract. Then next day, he was busy doing something when they came to him and said, “We made a mistake. We’d put the wrong date on. Can you resign it?” They gave him another copy of the contract and he signed. What Chris had not noticed was that this was not the new contract. It was the old one. They had tricked him. They had lied to him.
Looking at the contract sitting before me, I knew Ibrahim was trying the same stunt now. He had hoped Ray and I would sign without checking them. The moment he realised we would not, he looked angry and snatched them away.
Ray and I tried to negotiate. Not long after, Tim and Neil arrived. With them there, the conversation became a little more interesting. I had already asked for a copy of the contract. Tim (I think it was Tim) asked again. He was told he could not have one. As I recall, Ibrahim then told him the contract was confidential.
What? How can something everyone must sign be confidential!?!
At some point, I asked to show it to a lawyer. Ibrahim said ATG’s legal team would not allow that. I pointed out that I had a legal right to show it to a lawyer before signing it. I then told Ibrahim that I believed he was breaking the law by denying me my legal rights. Ibrahim still refused to let us show it to a lawyer. Meantime, ATG’s lawyer- Yazed Kanan – was visibly squirming in his seat at this point. All this happened in front of Ray, Neil and Tim and I recorded it all.
But it was good Tim and Neil were there because Ibrahim and his lawyer were outnumbered. We all agreed that everyone wanted a contract signed that protected both parties. It was agreed that we would all meet again Saturday morning so that Neil and Tim and Ray and myself could re-read the contract and make comments. I suggested to Ibrahim that he not send the contract back to their legal team until this was done. He agreed that was a good idea.
We ended by suggesting to Ibrahim that it would be good for the crew morale if he came to the studio. No-one has seen him for about two weeks. This was breeding increasing distrust. If he showed his face, this might be perceived as a goodwill gesture. He agreed.
SATURDAY 13TH FEBRUARY, 2016
Ibrahim did not call us to arrange it.
I wonder why?
What did happen is that Ibrahim came to the studio to meet the crew. He wanted to do it in the office. He had said he just wanted to meet Construction, but Ray invited others. Ibrahim clearly wasn’t happy about that, but he pretended otherwise.
As I recall, the meeting got heated quite quickly. In his arrogance, Ibrahim thought it was okay to have a go at some crew members for authorising payments without his prior consent (as it turned out, he had given his consent – he’d just forgotten). But that is not the point. These people were here to express their concerns about not having been paid, about being on the edge of losing homes, etc. But instead, Ibrahim was having a go at them!!! I waited a few minutes then insisted we get back on topic as this was not appropriate conversation under the circumstances. I doubt Ibrahim appreciated that.
…we had sent Ibrahim an email earlier that morning saying people needed financial help or they would lose their homes. There was no reply. A second email included details of who needed what. This was a ‘crisis’ email and a request for urgent help. Not for us, but for those worse off. It included mention of:-
- Crewmembers who were about to lose their homes including one British crewmember who’s home was occupied by his a pregnant partner.
- A Filipino crew-member who could not pay his father’s urgent medical bills.
- Filipino crewmembers who could not pay for their children to take exams (which would lead to them losing their education and their future).
We brought this up at the meeting. Ibrahim acted like he had not seen them. He made a gesture of going through his emails to find our emails but I could see he was bull-shitting. They were right in front of him (I was sitting next to him and could see). In the middle of his checking his emails, someone mentioned that the Bangladeshi crew were quitting and looking for work the next day. Ibrahim suddenly perked up.
As the lawyer – Yazed Kanan – took other the conversation, Ibrahim made two phone calls. He was whispering into his phone. I thought he was sorting out money for the people about to lose their homes, about to miss medical bills for family, about to miss bills so their children could take exams.
Shortly after the second call, the Bangladeshi crew (who had been standing outside waiting for a meeting) vanished. The meeting became quite heated once more. Nothing seemed to be achieved. At the end, Ray was saying something like, “Surely ATP must have some money to advance us”. The subject of Talal’s property (he has extra homes in Dubai and London) cropped up, and I said, “Maybe Talal can sell one of his homes to help”. Ibrahim turned on me. “Would you?” I replied, “Yes, I would.” And I meant it. He went ballistic – that was not the answer he had expected. You can listen to what he said after the meeting because I recorded the whole thing.
But here’s the kicker. After the meeting, we found out what those two calls Ibrahim were really about. The first call was to release funds. But not to help the people about to lose their homes, about to miss medical bills for family, about to miss bills so their children could take exams. It was to make sure the Bangladeshi guys didn’t quit. In the time the meeting took, they had been paid. In cash.
That afternoon, I gave Rita my per diems to help her and the Filipino guys so they would not lose their home. Despite Ray and I telling Majid and Ibrahim several times that Rita and the Filipinos were about to be kicked out of their home, ATP did nothing.
And when they kicked me out of my hotel room two days later, they paid the 12,000 QR hotel bill (about $3,300 USD) by electronic transfer between the time I got a call telling me to get out of the room and my arriving in the lobby (about 5 minutes).
That’s more money than Rita and the Filipinos needed to keep their home in Qatar, their families homes in the Philippines, a father in the hospital, and their children in education.
Says it all really, doesn’t t?
SUNDAY 14TH FEBRUARY, 2016
This is the day I co-organised a meeting to try to find a way forward. Everyone agreed that they hated ATP, did not want to sign anything with them, but we would continue to work should it harm the project if we did not. I was then fired for allegedly trying to incite people to strike.
Someone else suggested we could do the series without ATP. I won’t say who, but that conversation had nothing to do wth me. I was actually very surprised by it.
Then Talal called me to try to ‘bully’ me into signing their malignant contract.
And I found out about ‘Susan’s’ three suicide attempts and ATP’s subsequent non-handling of the situation.
MONDAY 15TH FEBRUARY, 2016
I sent emails to Ahmed and George wishing them good luck with the series. I kept it cryptic so it was not obvious I meant, “I hope you succeed at getting rid of ATP.”
After emailing Ahmed and George, I emailed Ibrahim to say I would not sign the contract. Essentially, they were trying to blackmail me into signing despite my not having legal council. Here is what I said:-
Not long after, Ibrahim came into the props workshop and said, “You’re fired!” To which I replied, “I already know that!” He then told me my flight would be that evening and if I stayed at the hotel I would be paying for it.
What he did not know was that I had anticipated his doing this so I had my iPhone set to record. What followed was the following stream of lies ands abuse.
I was furious. I was furious at George for sending them this private email. I was furious at ATP for stooping so low. (was there no end to the lies and callousness they’d resort to this week?).
Also, their claim was inaccurate. Of course I was looking for another job. I’d been fired. Also, my email did not say I was “resigning”. Where is the word “resigning”. It said I was “leaving” – which was a consequence of having been fired for refusing to sign a contract without legal council.
So never mind that Ibrahim fired me twice and I have recordings of both occasions to prove it, they were now lying – blatantly so – and suggesting I had quit.
Interestingly, they did not use this email which I sent to Ahmed at the same time, which contained an accurate reason for my not signing:-
Anyway, this was my reply:-
And this was their reply (I’m using a Mac Mail screenshot because the GoogleMail version won’t fit):-
Since this doesn’t it my screen, I’m doing it as two screenshots with an overlap so you can see I did not ‘delete’ anything:-
I really do not think I need to prove what a pack of lies this is. I think by now it is very clear what kind of company and people I have been dealing with.
I was furious. I had four hours to pack and board a plane. They really wanted rid of me!
So I quickly said my goodbyes. Then I went to Ahmed and told him I was sorry but I was going to the British Embassy because I was not going to play any more of ATP’s childish games. (“Childish” may not be the right word in retrospect. “vicious” would be more appropriate. Or to pinch from Talal, “not human”).
Then I left.
Roba gave me a lift to the hotel to get my stuff. While he waited downstairs, I called Gulf Air. It took a while to reach them, but I got hold of them and I moved my flight to Friday. It cost £300 but it would give me time to think. Also, I had asked Bob the night before if there may be any other jobs here. He said there was and in fact someone had been expressing an interest in me since finding out that everything at Medinah was falling apart.
So, yes, I delayed my flight.
That evening, Bob put me on the phone to Omar from the Film House, a Doha-based production company. He was delightful. A producer and a human being. Nothing like ATP.
The next day, Kristine called to tell me that ATP knew I was still here and they were rather nervous. Although Ibrahim had apparently blown off my threats to go to the UK Embassy on the grounds that ATP was a Jordanian company, they seemed rather worried. Maybe they thought I was still here because the British Embassy was taking it seriously? I don’t know. But they were trying to find out where I was staying. I was starting to feel like a Jew hiding under the floorboards of a sympathetic German as the Gestapo tried to hunt me down. Of course, they could have just called me and asked. 😉
(funnily enough, numerous crew members – not me – had been comparing ATP to the Gestapo the day I was fired).
Anyway, I have not heard from ATP since. They are supposed to be sending instructions on how to do the hand-over. Silence.
Maybe they’re hoping not to pay me.
Wouldn’t surprise me.
I’ll get in touch upon my return.
BTW- I found out George had not sent ATP my email. The Studio had. I was told the Studio had been very critical of ATP for using it – for which ATP had had to apologise. But no-one apologised to me.
It’s hard to trust these people anymore.
But I will say this now.
There are times in this blog when I have wondered who the enemy is. I will have been critical of George, Ahmed, ATP and the studio. But I don’t know George. I don’t know Ahmed. And I don’t know the studio. So anything I say about them has to be taken within the context of the moment and the final realisation that I have nothing against any of them. Because while I do think George, Ahmed and the Studio have failed to give the crew the urgent support they need, I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt and to assume there may be reasons why they have not helped the crew. Maybe the truth will out in the end.
I do know ATP.
I do know they are liars, thugs, blackmailers, bullies. I know that they use money they should only be using on Medinah on their other shoots (and this blog has more than enough evidence to prove it all). I know they do not care about people losing their homes, their family, or even their lives. I know they are evil. They do not care.
There are good people there. Jude. Majid. And I feel sorry for them. Especially Majid. I know he just wants to be a good father and the Devil tricked him into selling his soul to ATP. Jude is lucky. She is young. She has plotted her escape and will soon be doing film studies in the USA. She will be shocked to find out how unique ATP is.
I even feel a bit sorry for Hamad. Though he was the chief whip for Ibrahim last week when the threats and bullying were being issued, unlike the rest of the ATP crowd who can run back to Jordan, he lives here. Working for ATP will come to haunt him.
At one time, I felt sorry for Ibrahim. He once told me he does not care about ATP or Medinah. He only cares about his job. I suspect I know why. In Jordan, I have been told, you do not get promoted beyond your social standing. It never happens. Except at ATP. Talal clearly understands that that kind of promotion breeds fierce loyalty. Because if he fires them, they will never have another job like it. So it’s no wonder Ibrahim only cares about his job, because if ATG is universally hated (and they are – plenty of people – good people – in Jordan refused to work on “Medinah” because ATG was attached), and Ibrahim is ATG’s public bulldog, if he is fired, he will never find another job like it again. He will very likely lose everything.
You could feel sorry for him.
But this is a man who considers it more important to pay Bangladeshis so they won’t quit instead of paying Filipinos so they won’t lose their homes even though they have the money to pay them, to get rid of a man who tried to kill himself and may try again rather than risk bad PR for his company, to let crew (including a crew-member’s pregnant girlfriend) end up homeless, to let children lose their education and their futures.
Seriously, why would anyone feel sorry for a person like that?
Talal may be the Emporer. But Ibrahim is his Darth Vader. I hate to say it because I do not like to wish ill for anyone, but whatever happens to him, and it will happen eventually because he is burning bridges left right and centre, it will be deserved.
And the irony is, it will likely be Talal who does it to him. I wonder if Ibrahim knows that???