Migrant workers involved in the construction of New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus faced harsh conditions, The New York Times reported.
In interviews with dozens of workers, the newspaper found that conditions were “starkly different” from those articulated in the university’s “statement of labor values," with the migrant workers reporting that they had to pay fees to recruitment agencies of up to a year’s wages (and had never been reimbursed, contrary to NYU’s stated policies), that they worked 11- to 12-hour days, six to seven days a week, and that they were not permitted to hold on to their own passports.
Some workers lived in squalid conditions, 15 men to a room, rather than the prescribed maximum of four. Workers involved in the NYU campus construction who went on strike against their employer, the BK Gulf corporation, reported being beaten by police, jailed and deported.
NYU officials told the newspaper that they could not vouch for the treatment of individual construction workers, who are not university employees but instead work for companies that are contracted or subcontracted by the Abu Dhabi government agency overseeing construction. The companies are contractually obligated to follow the university’s statement of labor values. The university hired an engineering firm, Mott MacDonald, to monitor working conditions and issue annual reports, the latest of which, released last month, noted some challenges but was largely positive in its assessment; Mott MacDonald declined to comment for the Times article.
But in statements later on Monday, as reported by NYU Local, a student-run blog, President John Sexton called the events "if true as reported, troubling and unacceptable."
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