Timeline

  • January 8, 2013: ArabTec chosen for the $654 million Louvre Abu Dhabi contract. ArabTec made labor rights headlines in 2011 for deporting 70 Bangladeshi workers who led 5,000 workers on a two-week strike against non-payment of wages at Burj Dubai and other ArabTec sites.
  • January 7 2013: GulfLabor calls on (GulfLabor_PublicStatement_1.7.13) all cultural institutions on Saadiyat, including Louvre and NYU, to publicly take steps for migrant labor rights. The Public Statement included the following 4 key provisions:
    1. Recruitment fees and relocation costs paid by workers.
    2. Poor and unsafe housing and living conditions, even in the Saadiyat Construction Village.
    3. Lack of freedom to form trade unions for collective bargaining or to change jobs.
    4. Lack of open platforms for workers to express grievances or abuses without fear of recrimination or dismissal.
  • November 2012: GulfLabor responds to Price Waterhouse Coopers report
  • November 2012: Frank Gehry discusses plans for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi at Abu Dhabi Art Fair
  • September 2012: PWC releases monitoring report on labor conditions on Saadiyat Island.
  • March 2012: HRW releases second report The Island of Happiness Revisited.
  • June 2011: TDIC announces appointment of Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) as independent monitoring firm. PWC was not on HRW’s recommended list. GulfLabor released a public statement critical of the choice of PwC.
  • May 2011: GulfLabor contacted Institute for Human Rights & Business and shared with Guggenheim IHRB’s newly released Dhaka Principles for Migration with Dignity.
  • May 2011: Jadaliyya and Samar public Ahmed Kanna’s “The Arab World’s Forgotten Rebellions: Foreign Workers and Biopolitics in the Gulf”
  • April-May 2011: GulfLabor held meetings with Guggenheim in New York. We recommended an independent rights monitor be chosen from a list of recommendations by HRW. GulfLabor sent an update to all signatories.
  • March 2011: A group of members of GulfLabor visited a labor camp on Saadiyat Island and had discussions with TDIC officials.
  • March 2011: GulfLabor coalition noted little progress on issues, even after TDIC announced that it is committed to the appointment of a dedicated independent consultancy company sometime soon. We decided to make our letter public and announced a boycott of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.
  • September 2010:  TDIC’s Employment Practices Policy (EPP) are made public, followed by the TDIC/Guggenheim Statement of Shared Values. The released statements made public commitments by TDIC and the Guggenheim Foundation to uphold workers’ rights protections. However, the released documents did not address independent monitoring of employers’ compliance with human rights standards, and about effective enforcement mechanism. Unless a monitor is empowered to make random visits to work sites and maintain a relationship independent of employer influence, violations will persist and continue to be under-reported. In subsequent communication with the Guggenheim Foundation, we urged them to address this and other considerations such as provisions related to the payment of recruitment fees, freedom of movement for workers, health and safety provisions, accommodations, monitoring of wage payments, and rest and leisure time for workers, among others.
  • June 2010: Letter signed by 43 artists sent to the Guggenheim Foundation requesting that the Foundation obtain contractual guarantees that will protect the rights of workers employed in the construction and maintenance of its new branch museum in Abu Dhabi. We followed our letter with meetings with Richard Armstrong, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, and Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and Chief Curator. They assured us that the Foundation is committed to fair labor standards and requested some time to pursue the development of employment policies with their partners in Abu Dhabi, TDIC (The Abu Dhabi Tourism and Development Investment Company). We agreed not to make our letter public in the meantime.
  • 2010: GulfLabor held meetings with HRW about their 2009 report.  NYU faculty and students also shared their efforts to secure protections for  workers building NYU Abu Dhabi campus.
  • 2010: NYU announced labor provisions which HRW praised as “breaking new ground.” However NYU students insisted that “Unless a monitor is empowered to make random visits to work sites and maintain a relationship independent of employer influence, violations will persist and continue to be under-reported”
  • 2010: NYU students launch campaign “Who’s Building NYU Abu Dhabi?” demanding NYU protect workers rights on the “first world-class, liberal arts university in the Middle East.”
  • February 2010: Middle East Institute releases report: Labor Camps in the Gulf States
  • 2009: Human Rights Watch (HRW) publishes report The Island of Happiness: Exploitation of Migrant Workers on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi.
  • 2006: Human Rights Watch (HRW) publishes report Building Towers, Cheating Workers which looks at exploitation of migrant labor in Dubai.
  • 2004: Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) commissioned the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) to develop Saadiyat Island into a leisure, residential, business, and tourist center. Saadiyat Island is expected to host major cultural institutions including Guggeheim Abu Dhabi (designed by Frank Gehry), Louvre Abu Dhabi (Jean Nouvel), Zayed National Museum (Norman Foster), Maritime Museum (Tadao Ando), and Performing Arts Center (Zaha Hadid).
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