Workers Who Built NYU’s Abu Dhabi Campus Faced Harsh Labor Conditions

[Updated (5/19/2014, 10:57 p.m.) with additional responses from the university.]

The workers who helped build New York University’s recently completed campus in Abu Dhabi faced harsh labor conditions, with some of them saying that they were beaten, jailed, or deported after going on strike, The New York Times reported.

In 2009, NYU issued a “statement of labor values” pledging that workers on the project, in the United Arab Emirates, would receive fair treatment. The statement set limits on employees’ working hours and said that employees would be paid wages and benefits that complied with local laws and provided for their “essential needs and living standards.”

But the Times reported that interviews with dozens of workers who helped build the campus had shown that the labor conditions were “starkly different from the ideal.”

Strikes are illegal in the United Arab Emirates, and the Times noted that working conditions there are often difficult. Margaret Bavuso, executive director of campus operations for NYU Abu Dhabi, told the newspaper she had worked with contractors and the government to ensure workers were treated humanely.

In a statement released on Monday afternoon, John Beckman, an NYU spokesman, apologized to any worker who “was not treated in line with the standards we set and whose circumstances went undetected and unremedied.” And on Monday evening, NYU’s president, John E. Sexton, said in an email to the university that the conditions cited by the Times were, “if true as reported, troubling and unacceptable.”

“We will be working with our Abu Dhabi partners to investigate these reports vigorously,” Mr. Sexton said.

The texts of Mr. Sexton’s email and Mr. Beckman’s statement are quoted on the blog NYU Local.

The Times found no violations of some of the provisions of NYU’s statement on labor values, such as its prohibition on child labor and its requirement that workers get free transportation to their job sites.

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