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Article

29 Mar 2022

Author:
Simeon Kerr, Financial Times

Expo Dubai 2020: Financial Times finds "dozens" of cleaners employed by ADNH Compass & Farnek have paid recruitment fees; incl. comments from cos. & Expo

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Allegations

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"Workers at Dubai Expo complain of poor treatment," 29 Mar 2022

Over the past six months, more than 20mn people have visited Expo 2020 in Dubai, but with just days to go before the end of the ‘world’s greatest show’, some of the hundreds of cleaners who have toiled at the exhibition site fear they have little to show for their efforts...

Dozens of workers, mainly cleaners, across the Expo site told the Financial Times they had paid recruitment fees. Others, including security guards, said they had not. Interviews with 69 Expo workers conducted by advocacy group Equidem found that 83 per cent had paid illegal fees or had not received their pay in full and on time...

Yet across the site, a couple of dozen cleaners told the Financial Times how they had dipped into savings or borrowed thousands of dollars to pay illegal recruitment fees to agents. Cleaners employed by Swiss-owned Farnek also complained of paying recruitment fees to agents and low pay...

ADNH Compass, which provides free food and accommodation, said any substantiated allegation of paying illegal fees to agencies would be “reimbursed by the agent or us”. Farnek said it does not recruit workers who have paid fees, saying they all must confirm in writing that they have not paid any agency fees...

Expo said issues surrounding pay and recruitment fees are not systemic across the large workforce operating in a place the size of a city, where 100,000 people are on site daily. “While full compliance is not always tenable, Expo 2020 Dubai has set high standards in worker welfare,” it said. “Expo conducts rigorous inspections of its service providers and employees sign an undertaking that they have not paid fees to recruitment agents.”

In addition to the personal tragedy for workers, the regulatory and reputational risks for companies that get this wrong are growing. Investors are watching.
James Corah, head of sustainability at CCLA Investment Management