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16 Apr 2015

Stephanie Saul, New York Times (USA)

N.Y.U. Labor Guidelines Failed to Protect 10,000 Workers in Abu Dhabi, Report Says

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About one-third of the migrant construction workers employed at New York University’s campus in Abu Dhabi — or about 10,000 people — were excluded from the protections of the university’s labor guidelines ensuring fair wages, hours and living conditions, according to an investigative report issued on Thursday. The 72-page report said that some subcontractors were exempted from the guidelines based on decisions made by local contractors running the operation. One of those contractors was Mubadala, a real estate company owned by the government of Abu Dhabi...“That error, for which we take full responsibility, was inconsistent with the project’s publicly stated commitment to ensure that all of those working on the construction of the N.Y.U.A.D. Saadiyat Campus would be covered by our standards and compliance-monitoring program,” an N.Y.U. statement said. 

The university said that a third party would be hired to handle reimbursement of the workers...The exceptions to the guidelines were initially designed to apply to a narrow group, such as vendors delivering goods to the project. Mubadala and other contractors later expanded the exceptions to include subcontractors whose work fell below $1 million or who worked on-site for less than 31 days at a time, or with gaps of 30 days between visits, the report said...[H]ardly any of the workers had been reimbursed for fees, generally $1,000 to $3,000, that the workers had paid to recruitment agents in their home countries. The report estimated that more than 25,000 workers would have qualified for the reimbursement...The investigation also found that 30 percent of workers said they had to give up their passports to employers as a condition of working at the campus, a violation of the N.Y.U. labor guidelines.

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