[Marxism] Conditions for Abu Dhabi's migrant workers working on Guggenheim and NYU buildings 'shame the west'

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Dec 22 06:24:37 MST 2013

Conditions for Abu Dhabi's migrant workers 'shame the west'
Calls for urgent labour reform after Observer reveals construction 
workers face destitution, internment and deportation

     David Batty	
     The Observer, Saturday 21 December 2013	
     Jump to comments (264)

Trade unions, human rights activists and politicians have called for 
urgent labour reforms to protect the thousands of migrant workers 
building a complex of five-star hotels and museums on Saadiyat Island in 
the United Arab Emirates, including a new Louvre and the world's largest 

The International Trade Union Confederation and art activism group Gulf 
Labor have urged the western institutions involved in the project, 
including the British Museum, to take active steps to address the 
workers' welfare and press the UAE government to improve their conditions.

The calls come as an Observer investigation found evidence that the 
emirate's tourism development and investment company (TDIC), which runs 
Saadiyat, is failing to uphold its own employment policies, with workers 
left destitute, confined to their quarters and sent home for taking 
strike action. Migrant labourers building New York University's Abu 
Dhabi campus on the island were found to be suffering even worse 

The investigation reveals that:

■ Companies are withholding the passports of migrant workers, trapping 
them in the UAE.

■ Thousands of workers are living in substandard or squalid conditions 
elsewhere in the UAE in apparent breach of the TDIC's pledge to house 
them all in its model Saadiyat accommodation village.

■ Dozens of workers were deported this year for striking over pay and 

■ Workers decorating the university live in squalid conditions, with 10 
men to a room, no free healthcare and some trapped because they have to 
pay back huge recruitment fees.

■ Mobile-phone video footage of a riot at the SAV in August shows dozens 
of men roaming the camp armed with metal spears and planks spiked with 
nails. Men are seen jumping out of windows to avoid the conflict.

■ A worker who claims he lost his leg while building luxury villas has 
been forced to live on the top floor of a migrant camp for a year. He 
only received a prosthetic leg last month and has been reliant on the 
Red Crescent for medical support. His claim for compensation and request 
for ground-floor accommodation have been rejected.

■ Louvre workers are having to work for nine months to a year just to 
pay back their recruitment fees. One worker who went on strike over poor 
wages was kept in his camp unpaid for three months and then sent back to 
Pakistan with 19 others.

The European council held a meeting on 4 December to discuss the growing 
concern about migrant workers' rights in the UAE and its neighbour, 
Qatar. The chair of the European parliament's subcommittee on human 
rights, German MEP Barbara Lochbihler, said migrant workers in the UAE, 
including those on Saadiyat Island, were exploited "on a daily basis".


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