CFL Statement Regarding NYUAD Statement on Supplier Code of Conduct

Late last year, the Coalition for Fair Labor (CFL) issued a statement regarding NYU Abu Dhabi’s new Supplier Code of Conduct (SCC), now the only public document governing labor at NYUAD. In December, NYUAD and Tamkeen, its government partner, published a reply to our concerns. In response to the CFL statement, NYUAD and its government partner Tamkeen have made it a contractual obligation for any NYUAD supplier to inform workers of their rights. Also in response to the CFL statement, NYUAD and Tamkeen have announced that Impactt, the monitor commissioned to oversee labor compliance, will issue quarterly reports on its field audits of worker conditions. These are both significant improvements to workers’ rights. However, there are several outstanding issues raised in the CFL statement that the NYUAD response does not adequately address.

Here is the full statement from CFL in response to NYUAD. We hope NYUAD’s latest decision represents a new willingness on the administration’s part to solicit wider input into deliberations over its labor policies. Input has so far been limited to NYU’s formal government structures–an arrangement that proved to be inadequate during the pre-Nardello report of campus construction. Greater transparency could both help prevent the kinds of oversight detailed in the Nardello Report and, as seen in this instance, improve outcomes for NYUAD workers.

Statement to the NYU Community from the Coalition for Fair Labor on New NYUAD Supplier Code of Conduct

[download the full statement here]

The Coalition for Fair Labor (CFL), a faculty-student alliance, established in 2009 as an advocate for high labor standards for employees on NYU projects, played an instrumental role in pushing for recommendations that were adopted into NYUAD’s original Statement of Labor Values. As the NYU community knows from New York Times coverage, the Nardello report concluded that 10,000 employees hired to build NYUAD were not covered by these labor principles, and set forth several recommendations including: abolish all exemptions to coverage; hire an independent compliance monitor; increase transparency; and implement and enforce policies that prevent future losses.

CFL is now deeply concerned that the NYUAD administration’s new Supplier Code of Conduct (SCC) for contractors is a badly flawed response to these explicit recommendations from Nardello & Co.—a firm hired by NYU and its Abu Dhabi partner to assess labor violations.

On November 1st, the NYUAD administration posted the SCC for employers contracted for all campus operations. Request from members of CFL to see earlier drafts of the SCC were ignored. Though we have worked on NYUAD fair labor provisions for almost eight years, and have accumulated a great deal of knowledge about the labor economy and international efforts to improve migrant worker conditions in the Gulf region, the NYU administration clearly does not regard this faculty-student group as a legitimate community of interest, let alone of expertise.

That is particularly unfortunate and it suggests that lessons have still not been learned from the blemished record of the past several years. If the original advice of CFL had been followed, NYUAD would have appointed an appropriate external monitor to oversee labor conditions during the construction of the campus. Failure to do so resulted in significant worker maltreatment, and, according to the Nardello report, the exclusion of a third of the workers from adequate protection under NYUAD’s standards. After this scandal was exposed, the Coalition pushed again for an appropriate monitor to be appointed for the operational phase of the campus.

Unfortunately, the SCC, which we have been told by NYUAD now replaces all prior labor governance documents, includes no concrete language about oversight by an external monitor. In that document, compliance is defined as an internal matter, dependent on self-reporting and subject to NYUAD’s own compliance evaluation process. This arrangement flies in the face of standard practices in the labor auditing sector. No employer, no matter how benevolent, can be trusted to oversee labor compliance. The need for independent auditing and verification is a bedrock principle. The Code does reserve vaguely defined rights of investigation to “authorized agents” of the university, but, in view of the past failures in monitoring, this minimal mention, in passing, of some unnamed and undefined entity is a wholly inadequate gesture.

But this is only one of several shortcomings in the policies laid out in the Code. Others are listed below. In our overall estimate, NYUAD has failed to implement key lessons and recommendations from the Nardello report, and must take steps to address the inadequacies of the new Code before fresh abuses occur.

Why does the NYU administration, both here at Washington Square and in Abu Dhabi, continue to operate in a spirit of non-transparency, with respect to faculty and student access, and nonconformity, with respect to international norms in the field of labor compliance?  All of us are affected adversely when NYU’s name is tarnished by association with human and labor rights abuse. Why does our administration continue to put the institution’s reputation at risk?


NYU Abu Dhabi Fails to Heed Independent Monitor Recommendations
New policy presents major risks to laborers on NYU Abu Dhabi campus

In its new labor standards, NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) has failed to implement key lessons from a major independent investigation, conducted at its behest, which had concluded that arbitrary, vague, and non-transparent labor standards allowed major human rights abuses to occur in the construction of its campus. Released in October, the Supplier Code of Conduct (SCC) governs all contractors and subcontractors for labor at NYUAD in the operation of its campus. Yet the Code codifies arbitrary standards, maintains general language, and fails to disclose any information about how the policy is put into practice. Conducting an independent investigation (resulting in the Nardello report) demonstrated a commitment to respecting human rights at NYUAD. Disregarding many of its findings does not. Especially for its most vulnerable workers, low-wage subcontracted manual laborers, the Code is an inadequate protection against human rights abuses at NYUAD.


In April 2014, NYU commissioned an independent investigation, conducted by Nardello & Co, into its failure to prevent major labor abuses in the construction of its Abu Dhabi campus. On paper, NYUAD had made a public commitment to protect workers’ rights in its Statement of Labor Values and 14 Points. In practice, as summarized in its report, Nardello & Co. found NYUAD, the UAE government, multiple compliance monitors, and numerous construction companies privately used the general language of the Statement of Labor Values and 14 Points to reduce labor protections far below what had been originally intended.

This occurred in two major ways. First, short-term workers were interpreted to be outside NYUAD’s policy altogether. This loophole entirely excluded 10,000 workers from NYUAD protections, intended to ensure basic levels of housing, sanitation, and food, payment of a minimum wage, and prevention of debt bondage by compensating workers for their recruitment debts. These protections are especially vital because UAE construction workers hold kefala visas that bind them to their employer.

Second, NYUAD issued a private document, the Supplementary Specifications, that in practice nullified key parts of the Statement of Labor Values and 14 Points. For example, the 14 Points publicly promised to compensate recruitment debts, but the Specifications privately created such a high bar for getting compensation that only a tiny fraction of workers would ever be eligible.

The SCC replaces the Statement of Labor Values and 14 Points, but NYUAD has not made public any operationalizing documents, such as the Specifications. As a result, it is unknown how NYUAD is putting the SCC into practice. This is especially concerning because NYUAD continues to use contracted or subcontracted low-wage manual labor. From available documents, it appears NYUAD has hired facilities management corporation Serco, to supply any building repairmen, landscapers, cleaners, or other low-wage laborers at NYUAD’s Saadiyat Island campus. On other UAE campuses and at NYUAD’s much smaller interim campus, Serco had subcontracted this work out to smaller firms. Subcontracted low-wage manual labor is among the most vulnerable and the most difficult to protect in the UAE. In response to the Nardello report, NYUAD pledged to close the loopholes that allowed these workers to be excluded from protection and committed to covering contractors. But it must actually develop and disclose policies practically designed to regulate them.

CFL’s Response

The points below detail how the SCC falls far short of what is required to protect workers’ rights:

  1. The SCC makes no reference to a basic tenant of the Nardello report recommendations and standard practice in the labor auditing sector – that an independent compliance monitor should be hired.

No employer can be trusted with its own oversight. The SCC does reserve vaguely defined rights of investigation to “authorized agents” of the university, but, in view of the past failures in monitoring, this minimal mention of some unnamed and undefined entity is wholly inadequate. While the Coalition for Fair Labor at NYU has been informed that Impactt has a consulting relationship with labor compliance officers at NYUAD, this practice must be codified so that NYUAD can be held accountable to it. Currently, though NYUAD has extensive social media about its education and appreciation programs for workers on its website, there is no mention of Impactt actually serving as a monitor. Furthermore, Impactt is a for-profit contract firm, not an independent monitor, creating a potential conflict of interest between its reporting practices and it keeping its contract with NYUAD.

  1. The SCC definitions do not include basic general terms that were previously defined in the Supplementary Specifications, including standards for housing and minimum wages.

The SCC is far more ambiguous than the previous Supplementary Specifications regarding standards for housing. The SCC only codifies the bare bones requirements in UAE law for safe housing, although the Supplementary Specifications had a detailed standard that allowed parties to easily measure whether or not they were in compliance. Though there is basic human rights language that accommodation provided by the employer ensure “structural safety and reasonable levels of decency, hygiene, and comfort,” the general terms provided here, without further detail, makes it difficult to hold contractors and subcontractors accountable for violations of the standard.

The SCC does not contain a minimum wage. It is on this basis of the minimum wage contained in the former Supplementary Specifications that workers are currently being compensated for the violations uncovered by Nardello & Co. The SCC as it currently stands risks depriving workers of the possibility of compensation for unpaid wages.

The SCC relies on a number of terms that are general and open to broad interpretation, such as: “essential” needs and living standards; “good-faith” grievances; “give preference” to contractors that demonstrate the use of ethical recruitment practices. cfl-statement-on-nyuad-scccfl-statement-on-nyuad-scccfl-statement-on-nyuad-sccGiven the failures of the broad language of the Supplementary Specifications, as noted by Nardello report, clear standards are especially important for communicating to contractors and subcontractors covered by the SCC.

  1. The SCC neglects the recruitment fee reimbursement policies recommended by Nardello.

The provisions of the SCC on recruitment are a codification of a policy that the Nardello report explicitly rejected. The SCC deals with recruitment in the section entitled L. Hiring Practices, which states that NYUAD will not reimburse recruitment fees unless the worker can show evidence of payment, and unless the worker was hired for the NYUAD site exclusively (or if the fees were incurred within 12 months of being hired by NYUAD). However, as recognized by Nardello, these requirements effectively disqualify all workers from reimbursement, as documentation of recruitment fees is virtually non-existent and workers are recruited to work for particular firms, rather than at particular sites. As written in the Nardello report, “the percentage of migrant workers who have paid recruitment fees in their home countries to obtain work in the UAE is so high as to support a presumption that all migrant workers in the UAE paid such fees.”

  1. The SCC neglects passport retention policies recommended by Nardello.

While the SCC requires that the employer safeguard the right of employees to retain their personal documents, the SCC fails to include the recommendation contained in the Nardello report that in all circumstances, “employers clearly explain verbally and in writing (in the worker’s native language)” that they can store their passports in their lockbox or secure documents with a monitor or third party. While UAE law requires that all employer-provided housing be equipped with lockboxes, the most important driver of employer passport holding is workers’ perception that they must give it over. The SCC ignores the importance of communicating to workers’ their rights, and lacks clear guidance on how to do so.

  1. The SCC has no information about operationalizing its provisions, rejecting the Nardello report’s recommendations on penalties and compensation for non-compliant employers and for independent third-party oversight.

The SCC ignores the Nardello report recommendation that NYUAD should create a schedule of escalating, public penalties for non-compliant contractors. The SCC in its section on remedies requires only that employers take “immediate steps to remedy … deficiencies or failures” and “reserves the right” to reserve future payments to the Employer, increase the frequency of monitoring and auditing, terminate the agreement, or seek any other remedy or penalty in UAE law or other applicable authority. Without a policy about how these will be used, remedies may be guaranteed on paper but never enforced in practice.


Clearly, NYUAD has not made sufficient disclosures about its labor policy. Its own recent institutional history demonstrates that lack of transparency weakens its labor protections and thereby exposes it to human rights risks. In parallel, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights acknowledge that businesses cannot respect human rights “unless they have certain policies and processes in place” – a public policy like the SCC, but also due diligence policies that assess human rights impacts, integrate and act on findings, track responses, and supply enough information to the public that external stakeholders can evaluate their adequacy. Examples of such information include disclosures of subcontractors in NYUAD’s supply chain, examples of auditing and monitoring forms, and measurements of how many grievances have been lodged and contract entitlements redeemed.

To take its stated commitments from paper to practice, NYUAD must have such policies. Just as importantly, it must officially and publicly institute a labor monitor – ideally, an independent third-party firm – who has a clear mandate to release information about them and to issue ongoing public reports about compliance with them.

CFL Response to Announcement of New NYUAD Compliance Monitor

Coalition for Fair Labor
July 13, 2015

On Tuesday, June 23, members of the Coalition for Fair Labor met with Al Bloom, the Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi, regarding concrete actions the university should  take to provide full redress for the workers whose rights NYU and its UAE partner Tamkeen violated during construction of the NYUAD campus. While we welcome certain steps the university is taking, we remain deeply concerned about several unresolved issues.

Labor Compliance Monitor
For many years, CFL has urged NYU to hire an independent, third-party labor compliance monitor and invite the Worker’s Rights Consortium to partake in the bidding process. We regret that our recommendation was again ignored. NYU’s decision to appoint the UK based-firm IMPACTT LTD. to replace Mott MacDonald as third-party monitor is a step in the right direction. However, IMPACTT is a for-profit, client-centered contract firm and not an independent monitor. In light of Mott MacDonald’s faulty track record, namely the firm’s conflict of interest and failure to detect violations of NYU’s Statement of Labor Values, the administration must assure the NYU community of IMPACTT’s efficacy by disclosing in full the terms of reference under which the monitor will operate. IMPACTT should consult experienced, non-governmental organizations and incorporate regional best practices into their work. To ensure free flow of information, NYU should direct IMPACTT to: (1) interview workers off-site, (2) avert any and all forms of harm to workers when an imminent risk is identified; and (3) promptly make all IMPACTT’s reports public. Lastly, the forms of self-monitoring NYUAD has implemented, in which students and faculty are assisting in worker interviews, should be phased out.

In light of the Nardello & Co. investigation, which found that approximately one-third of all construction workers (10,000 of 30,000 total) were excluded from NYU’s basic wage  standards through a complex web of loopholes and subcontractor exemptions, we remain encouraged by the university’s decision to compensate these workers. We urge the administration to be transparent with students and faculty throughout the compensation period and make public the timeline and details of the compensation package. Furthermore, we urge the administration to account to the NYU community how specifically  Currie & Brown, the firm appointed to administer these payments, is qualified to oversee such a process.

Recruitment Debt
NYU’s continuing refusal to reimburse recruitment fees for all workers violates a baseline commitment the university made back at the outset of the construction in 2010. The Nardello investigation estimates that 25,000 construction workers paid recruitment fees between $1,000 and $3,000 USD. The university has claimed reimbursing these workers is impossible because most of them cannot document that they were recruited solely for NYUAD. Yet this was never a condition set out in the Fourteen Points, nor is it being imposed on operational workers today, who are being reimbursed if they began work at NYU within 12 months of arrival in the UAE. The administration should extend this reimbursement to all of the workers involved in construction, regardless of whether they paid these fees solely to work on the NYUAD project. We urge the administration to create a settlement fund and make lump sum payments to construction workers, none of whom have been reimbursed, to compensate for recruitment debt.

Deported Workers
NYU continues to evade responsibility for the 250 BK Gulf workers who were summarily deported in October 2013 after they struck to protest nonpayment of wages and deplorable working conditions. The inalienable right of workers to strike has been affirmed by human rights and labor organizations worldwide. However, as NYU fully understood before initiating its Saadiyat Island project, striking is prohibited by law in the UAE. NYU should recompense these workers for the physical injuries and items stolen during their imprisonment and summary deportation,extend its compensation program to include the deported workers’ withheld wages and the non-payment of gratuity promised to them at the end of two years’ employment.

Right to Associate, Organize, Strike, and Bargain Collectively
Given that collective bargaining and labor unions are banned by law in the UAE, NYU should assure that other independent channels of worker representation and association exists for the existing operational workforce. NYU should take a leading role in ensuring that workers voicing grievances are not punished.

Cross-Campus Research
After years of urging NYU to develop research on the transnational labor systems employed in the Gulf, we welcome the decision to launch a research initiative in this area. We believe it should be open and inclusive of students and faculty at all NYU campuses, and that NYU should prioritize research aimed at calculating a living wage for migrant workers in Abu Dhabi — while guaranteeing that all faculty and students have the freedom to travel to NYUAD to participate in such initiatives.

Transparency & Oversight
Finally, we strongly recommend that the university be fully transparent with the NYU community throughout the aforementioned initiatives and all issues related to labor compliance at NYUAD. We ask that the Supplier Code of Conduct and the Supplementary Specifications be made public immediately. We do not believe that “commercial sensitivity” are grounds for keeping these documents confidential, especially when they stipulate the minimum wage and living protections afforded to employees of this university. Furthermore, we urge the administration to engage in regular dialogue with CFL and other concerned groups on issues as serious as violations of workers’ rights.

CFL follow-up on Nardello investigation, travel bans to UAE

The Coalition for Fair Labor has released a second statement following-up on the findings of the Nardello investigation and the increasing number of scholars and artists barred from entering the United Arab Emirates.

NYU Coalition for Fair Labor:

Following Up on the Nardello Report and Further Travel Bans to the UAE

May 15, 2015

On April 16, 2015, we wrote to President John Sexton and other NYU administrators applauding Tamkeen and NYUAD for hiring Nardello to investigate allegations of violations of UAE labor law and NYUAD’s Statement of Labor Values as well as point out concrete steps that need to be taken to rectify the violations of NYUAD’s stated policies that the report outlined. The Nardello Report evaluated the numerous reports by NGOs and journalists that alleged and documented cases of labor abuses in the construction of NYUAD’s campus on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. The report corroborated many of these allegations, including non-reimbursement of recruitment fees, deportation of striking workers, and a hiring process leading to a third of the employees building the campus being exempted from the Statement of Labor Values.

Simultaneously, John Sexton issued a letter to the NYU community, “Thoughts on the Report from Nardello & Co. on Construction Labor on Saadiyat Island,” in which he acknowledged that “…there were real lapses” and “shortcomings.” In that letter, President Sexton stated that an independent third party would be appointed to oversee payment for employees of firms exempted from the Statement of Labor Values. These employees that were not paid, did not have recruitment fees reimbursed, and even in some cases were deported, are still waiting for compensation and the creation of a fair and transparent process to address their grievances. Nardello concluded that roughly 35% (or 10,000 employees) were not covered by the labor guidelines, and made several specific recommendations including: abolish all exemptions; hire an independent compliance monitor; increase transparency; ensure that workers are compensated for any loss of benefits and implement and enforce policies that prevent future losses, underpayment of wages, and substandard living conditions; establish confidential and effective grievance procedures for workers and conduct more worker interviews.

However, in the month since the Nardello report and President Sexton’s letter were issued, we have neither heard from any members of NYU’s leadership regarding this critical case nor have we received a response to our letter. There has been no announcement about the appointment of a labor standards monitor, nor has an auditor to oversee the process of compensating workers for recruitment fees, low pay, etc. been appointed.

At the same time, we remain concerned about the repeated denial of entry to the UAE to scholars and artists who have raised concerns about labor conditions on Saadiyat Island. Last week, two well-known artists, Ashok Sukumaran, based in Mumbai, and artist and Associate Professor of Art at Cooper Union, Walid Raad, from New York, were denied entry to the UAE on grounds of “security”. These denials come after Professor Andrew Ross’ travel ban on similar grounds in March. Banning scholars and artists from entering the UAE clearly raises concerns about academic and artistic freedom that we continue to urge NYU to address.

We therefore write again to call on the NYU administration to swiftly, transparently, and comprehensively meet its obligations to its past and current employees.

Specifically, we call on the NYU administration to:

1) Identify an independent and experienced monitor of labor conditions. The Nardello report made it abundantly clear that Mott MacDonald did not do an adequate job. This is something that we had warned would be an outcome when we heard that Mott MacDonald, a firm with significant interests in the Saadiyat island project, received the contract to monitor labor conditions.

2) We call on NYU to formulate a clear and efficacious system to address the cases of illegal recruitment fees, deportation, and lack of payment. The deported workers, and others denied back pay for several months, deserve restitution for their abusive treatment, deportation and loss of income. All workers who incurred recruitment debt should be compensated for the $1000-$3000 amounts found in the Report.

3) NYUAD’s responsibilities on Saadiyat Island do not end now that construction of its campus is complete, and the Nardello report has been issued. As the region’s premier research institution, NYU has an obligation to devise meaningful solutions to the problems of systematic migrant labor abuse that will continue to plague the workforce employed on Saadiyat sites all around NYUAD in the years to come. Moreover, as a Global Network University, NYU must take the lead in research and teaching on the ethics of global higher education. We continue to encourage the administration to support cross-campus research on the history and current context of migration, labor and globalization in Abu Dhabi and across its Global Network University sites.

4) We ask once again for an immediate investigation and redress of travel bans targeting scholars and artists to the UAE.

CFL response to Nardello investigation

The Coalition for Fair Labor has released the following statement with regard to the findings of the Nardello & Co investigation.

NYU Coalition for Fair Labor:

Comments on the Release of the Nardello Report

April 16, 2015

Over the course of the last decade, a string of investigative reports (by Human Rights Watch, The Guardian, Amnesty International, New York Times, Gulf Labor Coalition) have uncovered labor abuse on UAE construction sites, some of these involving violations of NYUAD’s Statement of Labor Values. We applauded Tamkeen/NYUAD’s decision to hire Nardello to look into the allegations, and we note that the firm’s report has largely corroborated the substance, and most of the details, of the allegations.

The Coalition played an important role in the creation of the Statement of Labor Values, but our recommendations for selecting an independent labor monitor to implement these recommendations were ignored. Indeed, we were quite wary of the choice of Mott MacDonald to oversee the NYUAD compliance process. The report makes it abundantly clear that the firm failed to do an adequate job, and that the process, as a whole, was poorly designed. Workers were not protected, and in many cases, they suffered financial loss and worse. It is particularly disturbing to learn from the Nardello report that, under Mott’s watch, up to 35% of the workers engaged in construction of the NYUAD campus were exempted from compliance provisions.

President Sexton has issued a statement, acknowledging NYU’s responsibility for the lack of compliance protections in the case for some 10 000 workers. He has promised that the administration will take seriously the recommendations outlined in Nardello report. How will this promise be realized?  How will the recommendations be implemented?

The Nardello Report’s findings make clear that good intentions about fair labor values and ad hoc meetings behind closed doors have failed to protect workers. We need more than statements on websites on one hand, and the hiring of inappropriate labor compliance monitors on the other. The recommendations offered by the Report should be followed through in a truly transparent fashion, in the spirit of full disclosure and dialogue with NYU students and faculty.

In light of the Nardello Report, we make the following demands:

  1. A) The deported workers, and others denied back pay for several months, deserve restitution for their abusive treatment, deportation and loss of income. All workers who incurred recruitment debt should be compensated for the $1000-$3000 amounts found in the Report. Further, those who suffered from wage depression in the UAE labor market during the period of construction should also be compensated. A study by Columbia University and NYU economists found a 25 percent wage depression in this period.[*]
  1. B) The Coalition has called for an independent monitor to be appointed in place of Mott, to oversee labor standards among NYUAD’s large operational workforce. We proposed the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) as the appropriate choice. However, our recommendation was ignored, and the process of selecting a monitor has not been made public to the university community. Will the terms of reference for the monitor be made available to faculty and students in Abu Dhabi and New York? Will the Code of Conduct (which governs the operational workforce including domestic workers) be released, as student groups and the Coalition for Fair Labor have demanded? What, if anything, will have changed with the monitoring process in light of the Nardello Report?


  1. C) NYUAD’s responsibilities on Saadiyat Island do not end now that construction of its campus is complete, and the Nardello report has been issued. As the region’s premier research institution, NYU has an obligation to devise meaningful solutions to the problems of systematic migrant labor abuse that will continue to plague the workforce employed on Saadiyat sites all around NYUAD in the years to come. Moreover, as a Global Network University, NYU must take the lead in research and teaching on the ethics of global higher education. We continue to encourage the administration to support cross-campus research on the history and current context of migration, labor and globalization in Abu Dhabi and across its Global Network University sites.

[*] See:



CFL condemns travel ban imposed on NYU faculty traveling to Abu Dhabi

NYU Professor Andrew Ross was barred from entry into the United Arab Emirates earlier this week for “security reasons” while traveling to Abu Dhabi to conduct research.

The Coalition for Fair Labor has issued the following statement regarding the travel ban:


On Saturday March 14th, Professor Andrew Ross was barred by the UAE government from boarding an international flight from JFK to Abu Dhabi on the grounds of “security concerns”. He was on his way to the UAE for a research trip. Professor Ross of the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, president of AAUP at NYU and the author of more than a dozen books on labor, globalization and urban transformation among other topics, has been a vocal critic of NYU’s labor policies and practices in both its New York and Abu Dhabi campuses. The fact that Professor Ross was barred from travel to the UAE, the site of NYU’s main “global network” campus in Abu Dhabi represents a gross violation of academic freedom. As faculty and students in the Coalition for Fair Labor we have been working with our colleagues in NYU-AD over the last year to establish a dialogue and work on collaborative research as well as policy intervention, specifically in the area of migrant workers’ rights in Abu Dhabi. Banning a faculty member from entering a country because of their critical scholarship whether directed at the university and or the government is an unacceptable response by stakeholders of NYU’s “global network university” in Abu Dhabi and here in New York. We demand an immediate investigation and redress of this incident by the NYU administration.

Endorsed by:

UAW Region 9A
NYU Student Labor Action Movement
Technical, Office and Professional Union, Local 2110 UAW
American Association of University Professors
NYU Law Students for Human Rights
NYU Students for Justice in Palestine

The statement was sent to NYU administration on March 16th. We have yet to receive a response. For more see:

Petition: NYU must respect workers’ rights at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus

On March 3, 2015, various student and worker groups at NYU launched a petition demanding that NYU redress past wrongs and secure present and future labor rights in Abu Dhabi.

Various members of the Coalition for Fair Labor, along with several student and worker groups at NYU, demand that NYU:

1) Justly compensate the NYUAD construction workers who were jailed and deported

2) Amend NYU’s Statement of Labor Values to recognize the rights of workers on all campuses, particularly freedom of association, the right to strike, and the right to organize and collectively bargain. We demand that NYU work with organizations in the region to implement these changes and ensure meaningful worker representation moving forward.

3) Publicly disclose the Code of Conduct that operationalizes labor standards at NYUAD

4) Implement NYU’s Statement of Labor Values by appointing an independent monitor of labor compliance

5) Initiate cross-campus faculty and student-led research on the current system of migrant labor employed at NYUAD


Students & faculty: NYU must respect workers’ rights in Abu Dhabi

Following the release of a Human Rights Watch report last week that documented, for the third time, rights’ violations of workers employed on the NYUAD project on Saadiyat Island, eleven NYU student, faculty and worker groups released a letter today, February 17, demanding that NYU respect workers’ rights in Abu Dhabi and at all global sites.

We demand that NYU:

1) Justly compensate NYUAD construction workers who were jailed and deported
2) Secure workers’ freedom of association, right to organize, right to strike and collectively bargain by amending the Statement of Labor Values
3) Disclose the confidential Code of Conduct
4) Implement the Statement of Labor Values by appointing independent labor compliance monitors

We expect a public response from the Office of the President by March 1, 2015.
For media contacts, please see the press release.

Human Rights Watch: Rights violations of NYU workers in Abu Dhabi

In response to a new Human Rights Watch report released yesterday, documenting the rights violations of workers employed on the NYUAD project for the third time, the Coalition for Fair Labor released a statement to President Sexton and Vice Chancellor Bloom reiterating our past demands for NYU to:

1) develop cross-campus research initiatives aimed at reform of the kafala system of sponsorship-based employment that heavily entraps workers in the region
2) assure transparency throughout the selection process and appointment of NYUAD’s new independent monitor, as well as the efficacy of the new monitor’s methodologies
3) amend its Statement of Labor Values to allow for the right to organize, strike and bargain collectively
4) petition to invite the International Labor Organization to negotiate significant reforms to the sponsorship system

In their 82-page report, “Migrant Workers’ Rights on Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates: 2015 Progress Report,” HRW documented the following: the confiscation of workers’ passports, the failure to reimburse workers for recruitment fees, and the ill-treatment and summary deportation of more than 200 workers who went on strike in October 2013 to protest pay discrepancies.