The Malta Independent 11 December 2018, Tuesday

In judicial protest, former assistant director at AUM claims breach of contract

Wednesday, 21 February 2018, 17:30 Last update: about 11 months ago

The former Assistant Director of Admissions of the American University of Malta has given insight into the management situation at the institution, in a judicial protest he filed against it for breach of contract.

Jordan Daniel Aird, an English national, had been employed as Assistant Director of Admissions on 1 August 2017, three months after his successful Skype interview, on a three year contract which set his annual salary at €45,000.

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Aird duly resigned his employment with Sheffield Hallam University in England, after being assured by the AUM that as soon as he arrived in Malta, he would be given a contract to sign. But when he reported for his first day of work on 1 August, he was told that the contract, while ready, was not yet signed by the company. He was once again assured that it would be signed in a short while.

The Englishman went on a pre-booked holiday, two days later. The university had been made aware of this plan well in advance, he says. However on his return on August 28, he discovered that Chiara Battistelli, Director of Admissions, was no longer working with the AUM, her employment having been terminated and consequently, all admissions-related work was to be assumed by Aird.

The next day he had spoken to the Provost of the AUM, John Ryder, about his long-awaited contract only to be told that there were problems and that the staff was “fighting with Sadeen to keep our positions.” He was offered a non-negotiable contract of $45,000 - which worked out to around €36,252, his remuneration being subject to the fluctuating exchange rate.

Without any other option, having left all behind him in England and having enterd into a lease agreement for a home in Malta, Aird had no choice but to sign, he claims.

The university’s first academic semester formally commenced on 12 September 2017, a week after its Admissions Counsellor, Salema Ahmed, also resigned her employment. Aird says he was “expected to carry out miracles” to recruit students, while not even being supplied with a laptop or a mobile phone line. The judicial protest states that he ended up using his personal laptop and mobile phone to work, whilst travelling on recruitment trips to Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Greece and China.

After the AUM terminated Chiara Battistelli and Salema Ahmed’s employment, the plaintiff said he ended up carrying more work than agreed, including the processing of all enquiries, applications, making decisions, liaising with agents and managing marketing enquiries “due to no staff being reinstated in that department.”

The lack of support and assistance by the AUM led to him attending fairs with out of date marketing materials, despite his pleas to update the information on the AUM’s website.

When the duties of the Dean of Student Affairs also landed on his lap, after the incumbent, Joshua Jonson, resigned, Aird asked for an increase in salary, but even with the increase granted, it was still “certainly less than the €45,000 which was discussed and originally agreed upon in writing,” he says.

Aird says he ended up on his own when he should have been assisted by a dedicated team.

In a last-ditch move, on January 19 this year, the AUM had offered to appoint Aird as Director of Admissions with immediate effect, with a promise that he would be provided with a laptop and sufficient funding to engage other employees. The offer was made “in recognition of the high quality of your work and to indicate the support you have among the leadership of the university”

But nothing was mentioned about his salary, despite his questions about it.

The plaintiff says he then “decided enough was enough” and handed in his immediate resignation within his probation period “consequent to the irresponsible behaviour of he protested company.” He was not paid his full last salary, “presumably from loss of currency exchange,” reads the protest.

Aird’s judicial protest, which he filed before the First Hall of the Civil Court by Lawyer Michael Tanti-Dougall, ends with a warning to the AUM that he would be holding it responsible for damages, both future and already suffered.

 

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