Workers building New York University’s new campus in Abu Dhabi say they were beaten, underpaid, and jailed after striking over working conditions, The New York Times reports.
Striking is illegal in the United Arab Emirates and labour conditions are notoriously bad, but in 2009, NYU issued a statement saying it would enforce fair treatment for workers.
It doesn’t appear that the university has held up its end of the bargain. The Times interviewed dozens of workers who built the new campus — here’s what they said about working conditions there:
- Nearly every worker had to pay recruitment fees that totaled about a year’s wages in order to get the job, and they were never reimbursed by contractors as promised by NYU.
- They had to work 11 to 12 hour days six or seven days a week.
- They weren’t allowed to keep their passports.
- They lived in “squalor,” with 15 men staying in one room, despite NYU saying there should be no more than four to a room.
- They had to work overtime to earn close to what they’d been promised, despite NYU saying that overtime should be voluntary.
- Some were beaten and jailed because of a strike over working conditions.
NYU did keep some promises: The Times’ reporting didn’t find any child labour violations, and the workers did receive free transportation to the job sites.
Nevertheless, the largest private university in the U.S. has faced criticism for its decision to open a campus in such a restrictive country, especially when the university doesn’t seem to have as much control over working conditions.
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