NYU labor compliance in Abu Dhabi comes into question

A report issued Thursday by a group of New York University students and faculty members is taking the university to task for labor practices connected to its campus in Abu Dhabi, saying that workers employed there still face risk of exploitation.

The report said even though the school investigated its labor compliance, some workers involved in the campus' construction still were owed money and worked in harsh conditions.

But the school issued its own compliance report this week and pushed back against the group's work as being "neither right nor fair," and said its findings showed a "good level of compliance among contractors and a high level of satisfaction among workers."

The New York Times had published an investigation in 2014 that found migrant workers who had worked on building the campus in the United Arab Emirates locale had been subject to a range of conditions including being forced to pay recruitment fees to get their jobs that were never reimbursed, living in overcrowded conditions and being forced to work overtime.

Following the report, NYU commissioned an investigation, which found a number of workers hadn't been protected by the fair labor practices the school had said would be in place. The school promised reimbursement.

The report Thursday from the Coalition for Fair Labor, based on published reports but not on-site worker interviews, said there were still workers who merited reimbursement. It chastised the school for not doing enough and for not issuing reports assessing worker and labor conditions in a timely manner.

"We call on the university to undertake steps that would embody a renewed commitment to ensure that workers on all its campus sites can be ensured a dignified working life in NYU's global world," the report said.

NYU's report, based on worker interviews in Abu Dhabi, said that while there were still things that needed to be addressed, such as monitoring to make sure all workers receive the overtime to which they are entitled, "our stakeholder interviews highlighted the level of commitment and effort made by (NYU Abu Dhabi) and its Abu Dhabi partner to carry out the compliance monitoring activities."