Museums News United Arab Emirates

Artists press for better working conditions on Saadiyat Island

The group Gulflabor has released a new letter following a report on labour practices at future museum sites

Workers on Saadiyat Island

As construction begins on a new $653m branch of the Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi, a group of artists who have spoken out against labour conditions in the Gulf released another letter calling on all the cultural institutions opening museums on Saadiyat Island to “seek uniform and enforceable human rights protections for the workers working on their sites”. The group Gulflabor—which includes the artists Doug Ashford, Tania Brugera, Sam Durant, Mariam Ghani, Hans Haacke, Walid Raad and Michael Rakowitz, among others—first targeted the Guggenheim Foundation with a petition about the unfair working conditions at it’s Abu Dhabi site in 2011, which led to a boycott of the international museum by more than 130 artists, curators and writers.

The emirate’s Tourism, Development & Investment Company (TDIC), which is overseeing the massive cultural development project on Saadiyat Island, hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to serve as an independent monitor, and its first annual report was issued in September 2012. Among the finding was that more than 74% of workers paid recruitment and relocation fees before they were hired. Gulflabor is now urging the Guggenheim to respond to the report and “publicly commit themselves to the welfare and fair working conditions of those who will be constructing these cultural institutions”.

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