x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Human Rights Watch praises Saadiyat labour measures

The organisation says safeguards will help workers on island projects.

ABU DHABI // Human Rights Watch praised the developer of Saadiyat Island for appointing a company to ensure workers are not exploited, but said it was still waiting for a clear enforcement mechanism.

The Abu Dhabi Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers, an international auditing firm, last week to keep a close watch on the island's 10,000 workers. It has not yet released details about punishment for their mistreatment, however.

The development company has said interviews with workers in their own languages and surprise inspections at work sites would be carried out. Violators can face financial penalties and the cancellation of their contracts with TDIC.

"TDIC needs to be clear about how it will punish violators and compensate the workers," said Sarah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch recognised TDIC's move as a "big step", and called on all other development companies to appoint auditors to keep tabs on all Abu Dhabi projects.

"By recognizing the need for independent monitoring, the development company has set an example that development projects throughout the region should follow," Ms Whitson said.

A TDIC spokesperson said: "PwC will start work immediately and will begin to audit existing contractors on Saadiyat. They will monitor other projects as and when construction starts, and as contractors are appointed."

A report released by Human Rights Watch 12 days before the appointment said workers on the island were abused. The report said the Guggenheim and the French Museum Agency, responsible for the Louvre Abu Dhabi projects belonging to TDIC, need to ensure that construction companies guarantee workers' rights.

All contractors and subcontractors working on Saadiyat Island must follow TDIC's Employment Practices Policy in addition to labour laws. The policy outlines protection related to health and safety, accommodation, insurance and wages.

osalem@thenational.ae