ABU DHABI // The developer of Saadiyat Island yesterday named an independent company to monitor the welfare of more than 10,000 labourers who live and work there.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) will ensure that contractors and subcontractors constructing the Louvre and Guggenheim museums are operating in compliance with labour laws.
As part of the regular audits, the monitor will conduct interviews with workers in their own languages and make scheduled and surprise visits to work sites and the Saadiyat construction village.
The 40-hectare construction village houses labourers from 18 countries and will be home to an estimated 20,000 workers by the end of next year as construction on themuseums and the island’s infrastructure begins.
The Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), the island’s master developer, had promised in March to expand its independent monitoring programme.
In March, more than 130 international artists and curators pledged to boycott the Guggenheim Museum in protest over workers’ conditions on the island. In a 2009 report, Human Rights Watch accused the UAE of exploiting workers by allowing unlawful practices, including the use of recruitment fees and a sponsorship system that gives employers almost complete power over labourers.
“The appointment of PwC will help us to confirm that all our contractors and subcontractors are adhering to all their contractual obligations in relation to workers’ rights, and that they have the right support to help them meet these regulations,” said Sultan al Mahmood, the executive director of strategic performance at TDIC.
All contractors and subcontractors working on Saadiyat Island are required to follow TDIC’s Employment Practices Policy (EPP) in addition to labour laws. The EPP outlines protection related to health and safety, accommodation, insurance and wages.
Violators of the policy can face financial penalties and the cancellation of their contracts with TDIC.
PwC, an international provider of assurance, tax and business consulting services, is responsible for reporting to the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) on issues concerning workers’ rights, including the withholding of passports, illegal recruitment fees, health and safety, wage payment and working and living conditions. The monitor’s findings will be made public annually as a comprehensive report.
In a statement, the leadership of the Board of Trustees of the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation called the PwC appointment “an essential component of safeguarding workers’ rights”.
“We remain committed to the workers on the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi construction site, to maintaining the integrity of our joint project with TDIC and to establishing a truly international museum that will reflect and celebrate the cultures of the Middle East while fostering an atmosphere of open, intellectual exchange,” the statement said.
PwC will work with TDIC’s internal audit department and share information and duties with the developer’s audit committee when needed.