Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Saadiyat Island Workers

Human Rights Watch is calling on the future occupants of Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island to stand against the abuse of the migrant workers building the infrastructure:
"The 80-page report, "‘The Island of Happiness': Exploitation of Migrant Workers on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi," found that while the UAE government has moved to improve housing conditions and ensure the timely payment of wages in recent years, many labor abuses remain commonplace. International institutions planning to open branches on the island - including the Guggenheim, New York University (NYU), and the French Museum Agency (responsible for the Louvre Abu Dhabi) - should urgently obtain enforceable contractual guarantees that construction companies will protect workers' fundamental rights on their projects, Human Rights Watch said...

"Based on interviews with migrant workers, and meetings with UAE and French government officials, as well as officers of international institutions and corporations with projects on the island, the Human Rights Watch report documents a cycle of abuse that leaves migrant workers deeply indebted, badly paid, and unable to stand up for their rights or even quit their jobs.

"The UAE government and the authorities responsible for developing Saadiyat Island have failed to tackle the root causes of worker abuse: unlawful recruiting fees, broken promises of wages, and a sponsorship system that gives an employer virtually complete power over his workers...

"Research on Saadiyat Island did show that authorities have taken some positive steps. Although workers' accommodations were still under construction when Human Rights Watch visited the island, they appeared to be relatively hygienic and not overcrowded. TDIC, the government-owned company overseeing the island's development, has sought contractual guarantees from construction companies that they will not confiscate workers' passports, use forced labor, or commit other abuses.

"Human Rights Watch contacted the construction companies, architectural firms, and international institutions working on the island to alert them to the need to take steps to ensure workers on their projects are not abused. Many did not reply to our letters. Among the Guggenheim, New York University, and the French Museum Agency (responsible for the Louvre Abu Dhabi project), only the Agency has taken any steps to seek meaningful contractual guarantees from TDIC to allow independent monitoring of workers' rights, but even the Agency's contract lacks guarantees or provisions allowing it to enforce workers' rights."

I'm particularly looking at NYU here, as that institution is supposed to be a bastion of liberalism.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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