Worker Abuse at Abu Dhabi Museum Island: Conditions Better, Still Awful

03.21.12 Marina Galperina

Reports of exploited laborers at Saadiyat Island near Abu Dhabi — the future home of opulent Guggenheim and Louvre annexes — have been coming in since 2009. Artists have repeatedly boycotted over “a cycle of abuse that leaves migrant workers deeply indebted, poorly paid, and unable to defend their rights or even quit their jobs.” Today, the Human Rights Watch has released a report, summed up by ArtInfo: The situation has improved but abuse continues. There has been “substantial progress,” an independent monitor has been assigned, but there’re no clear reports from said independent monitor as of yet and labor practices remain murky.

Based on the interviews conducted last winter, workers are still being held accountable for recruitment fees — some of them have mortgaged their being forced to work off the debt for substantially less pay than promised, equally essentially to indentured servitude on the cultural hub circa 2015. Yet, “new benchmarks for labor practices across the Gulf” have been set. If this is a best case scenario, imagine the norm.