By Joanne Bladd
Auditor will track illegal recruitment fees, withholding of passports on Saadiyat Island
Abu Dhabi state agency, the Tourism Development & Investment
Co, has hired an auditor to monitor the treatment of 11,000 foreign workers on
the emirate’s Saadiyat Island, home to branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre
TDIC appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers to carry out spot checks,
site visits and interview labourers. The firm will track worker welfare and report
on issues such as illegal recruitment fees, withholding of passports and
payment of wages by contractors, TDIC said in a statement Tuesday.
“Strict penalties are
in place to deal with breaches… including financial penalties and ultimately
cancellation of the contract.”
Abu Dhabi has spent billions to diversify its economy away
from oil, investing heavily in infrastructure in a bid to establish itself as a
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is at the heart of the emirate’s Saadiyat
Island development, which will also house a $500m branch of the Louvre and Zayed
The Guggenheim project faced controversy in March after more
than 130 artists, including prominent names in the Arab art world, pledged to
boycott the project over worker rights abuses.
In a statement released by Human Rights Watch, the artists’
group said it was responding to reports of worker abuses including unlawful
recruiting fees and broken promises of wages.
New York-based HRW said in a 2009 report that featured
interviews with 94 labourers on Saadiyat Island, that each said he had paid between
$1,800 and $4,100 in recruitment fees prior to securing his job.
The practice is outlawed in the UAE, as it places workers in
significant debt before they begin work that can take years to repay.
Last year, 14 workers on the island went on strike after
claiming they had not been paid for five months by a subcontractor.