We welcome the decision to appoint a third-party compliance monitor for NYUAD. Over the last few years, NYU faculty and students have clearly stated their desire to see non-instructional employee rights protected in the construction and maintenance of the NYUAD campus. We would like to see NYU lead the way in setting this kind of ethical model for all of its overseas branches, including the proposed NYU–Shanghai campus.
The choice of Mott MacDonald raises some questions for us, however. It is imperative that a monitor be perceived as truly independent for its audit reports to be regarded as reliable. Mott does not appear to have a track record of public reporting in its labor compliance work elsewhere, so we cannot assess its prior performance in this capacity. So, too, the firm has a sizable portfolio of existing UAE contracts in public works and other large-scale projects. To some, the extensive range of these contracts might suggest that the company is already quite invested in the norms of the construction industry in the UAE, which are the very source of the problem for the migrant workers. Alternately, this familiarity with the industry might be viewed as an asset. But to preempt the appearance of any conflict of interest, we think it would have been better to avoid appointing a firm whose profits in the region depend directly on securing government or government-approved contracts. As we had earlier recommended, a third-party monitor without any discernable ties to NYU or government agencies in Abu Dhabi would have been a more appropriate choice.
We do not presume to prejudge Mott MacDonald’s actual performance, but, in light of the above factors, we think it is appropriate that the following information be made public (on the website) or be made available to any member of the NYU community who desires it:
1) The terms of reference between NYU and the monitor. (i.e. Does the monitor have the right to do random spot checks? Can the monitor interview workers outside the presence of their supervisors? Does NYU have to sign off on any reports before they are made public, and can it ask the monitor to remove findings from those reports?)
2) The nature of the monitoring methodology and the scope of the public reporting.
3) An account of the remedial measures to be taken if violations are uncovered.
These are all fairly typical components of labor compliance contracts, and so, since transparency is the goal we all desire, we encourage the administration to make this information available.
Andrew Ross, president, NYU-AAUP
Mary Nolan, vice-president, NYU-AAUP
Marie Monaco, secretary, NYU-AAUP
Anna McCarthy, treasurer, NYU-AAUP
Rebecca Karl, at-large committee member, NYU-AAUP
Rana Jaleel, graduate representative, NYU-AAUP