NYU opened a full-service, NYU degree-issuing branch campus in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) in 2010. Construction of a brand new, 15.4-Hectare sized campus on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island was completed in April of 2014. However, reports of abuse and exploitation of migrant workers responsible for building NYU’s new campus have been documented and reported by various independent investigators throughout the four year-long construction process.
WHO’S BUILDING NYU ABU DHABI?
Did you know that . . .
• most of the UAE’s 500,000 migrant construction workers come from South Asian countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, while the total migrant worker population is 2,738,000, or 95 percent of the workforce?
• the U.S. State Department has recognized human trafficking to the United Arab Emirates that results in involuntary servitude to be a serious and continual problem?
• employers often collect and hold employees’ passports, rendering them unable to leave the country?
• migrant workers face severe rights abuse, including nonpayment of wages, no overtime pay despite long working hours, unsafe working conditions such as having to work construction jobs in dangerous heat, and unsanitary living conditions?
• construction companies provide no public information on the number of workers injured or killed on the job?
• UAE law contains no provisions protecting the right to collective bargaining?
• the government of Abu Dhabi has deported workers who strike in protest of their working conditions?
• employers have been known to blacklist employees from returning to the country when employees quit before their work contracts expire?
• UAE law does not permit most migrant workers from changing employers?
• the government routinely fails to enforce the legal protections for migrant workers that do exist?
NYU and the UAE are in a business relationship in which NYU trades the use of is name in exchange for the UAE’s promise to build and operate an Abu Dhabi campus and fund other projects in Washington Square. By law, NYU can set the terms and conditions for the use of its name by outside parties. If these terms and conditions are not satisfied, NYU has the right to refuse to let its name be used. NYU is not powerless in relation to the UAE. NYU Abu Dhabi is a business venture between NYU and the UAE, which is profitting off the use of the NYU brand just as NYU profits from the UAE’s funding.
As Human Rights Watch has extensively documented in 2009 and 2012, migrant workers in Abu Dhabi are badly exploited and the UAE government has faced difficultly in remedying labor abuses. The UAE construction boom has been so sudden that even if the government were willing to protect migrant workers, the existing UAE governmental agencies responsible for enforcing these labor protections are both understaffed and under-empowered. For more information on migrant construction worker rights abuse and UAE governmental response, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/legacy/englishwr2k8/docs/2008/01/31/uae17622.htm.
Information taken from the Human Rights Watch World Report 2008, the Human Rights Watch Report “Building Towers, Cheating Workers: Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers in the United Arab Emirates,” the 2009 Human Rights Watch report “The Island of Happiness,” and the 2012 Human Rights Watch Report “The Island of Happiness Revisited.” Questions? email FairLaborNYU@gmail.com.