Abu Dhabi Workers Receive Apology From NYU

Mary Lorenzo

New York University issued an official apology yesterday to the roughly 6,000 workers who endured mistreatment and a myriad of labor abuses during the construction of the university's new campus in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The apology comes after a New York Times investigation shed light on working conditions on the site, where workers labored long hours six to 7 days a week and lived in overcrowded lodgings. And when workers struck for better conditions last October, hundreds were arrested and beaten, while many South Asian migrant workers were deported from U.A.E., infamous for its nearly nonexistent labor protections. After NYU announced the construction plans for an Abu Dhabi campus in 2009, the university issued a statment of labor values meant to minimize the mistreatment of workers, partially in response to criticism over U.A.E.'s poor working conditions. The university followed up in 2011 with an expanded set of standards, though they are described as "contractual requirements" for companies involved in the construction. The monitoring of the standards was outsourced to an engineering firm, and NYU has denied knowledge of working conditions or unrest.  The New York Times reports: In a statement to the NYU community, its president, John Sexton, called the workers’ treatment, “if true as reported, troubling and unacceptable.” “They are out of line with the labor standards,” he continued, “we deliberately set for those constructing the ‘turnkey’ campus being built for us on Saadiyat Island and inconsistent with what we understood to be happening on the ground for those workers.” In a separate statement, to the website NYU Local, a spokesman, John Beckman, wrote "To any worker who was not treated in line with the standards we set and whose circumstnces went undetected and unremedied, we offer our apologies." 

Mary Lorenzo is a Summer 2014 editorial intern.
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