A Conversation on Compliance with Erum Raza

Raza: Our Office upholds the Statement of Labor Values through a number of compliance activities: Firstly, our Office conducts monthly interviews of ...

Oct 25, 2014

With the transition to the new NYU Abu Dhabi campus on Saadiyat this past summer, the university’s labor compliance efforts were expanded and enhanced to meet the demands of a larger contracted workforce on campus. This week The Gazelle caught up with NYUAD’s chief compliance officer, Erum Raza, to explore how compliance, risk management, and labor standard monitoring is evolving in our new environment.

How does your office, the Office of Compliance and Risk Management, uphold the University’s Statement of Labor Values? What is the process if a violation of the Statement of Labour Values is found?

Raza: Our Office upholds the Statement of Labor Values through a number of compliance activities:
Firstly, our Office conducts monthly interviews of contracted staff to detect potential non-compliance with the Statement of Labor Values and the Supplier Code of Conduct, collectively called the Labor Standards. This activity has been ongoing since 2009, when NYUAD opened, and it has evolved over time to meet our changing context. Suppliers who do business with NYUAD and our government partner, [Tamkeen],are required to adhere to all of our Labor Standards. In addition to monitoring suppliers’ compliance with our Labor Standards, another key purpose for our monthly interviews is to foster an environment that is conducive to building relationships between our Office and the University’s contracted staff, and also that encourages workers to come forth with their own concerns outside of the interview process. Currently, we conduct 25-30 interviews of NYUAD contracted staff every month; interviewees include security guards, drivers and bookstore staff. Since August, we have also been interviewing contracted employees working for facilities management, dining staff and other services. This number will increase as our compliance program evolves.
In 2013, our Office interviewed 97 percent of all NYUAD contracted employees. Between January 2014 and October 2014, we have interviewed approximately 225 contracted employees. Individuals from our Office conduct comprehensive compliance interviews. Trained volunteers, including staff and faculty from our Office, also help conduct the monthly interviews. Interviewers speak a wide range of languages and many of them have extensive training in conducting investigative interviews. In parallel to our monthly interviewing, our external compliance monitor also interviews contracted staff working at NYUAD.
Secondly, we conduct audits and inspections of employers’ books and records, including Human Resources files, and inspect contracted employees’ accommodations. This is done to ensure contractors are upholding the Labor Standards, such as ensuring that employees retain their passports. This helps us identify potential non-compliance with our Labor Standards and to verify complaints that may have been disclosed during monthly interviews. We also carry out audits and inspections to ensure proper recordkeeping and to develop first-hand knowledge of living conditions of contracted staff. We also visit and provide feedback on potential accommodation sites, working in collaboration with our government partner and our external compliance auditor.
We also ensure our suppliers are upholding our Labor Standards by conducting investigations into complaints that we receive from our contracted staff and other members of the community, and into any instances of non-compliance that we detect on our own. We receive complaints in a variety of ways including through walk-in visits to our Office, monthly interviews, via email at nyuad.compliance@nyu, through our anonymous Compliance Helpline at 8000-021 and, once prompted, the additional number 877-360-7626, and through an online anonymous complaint form available on our public website.

What are some of the challenges that have come with moving to the new Saadiyat Campus?

Raza: Although we have faced a number of challenges and our context has changed with the move to the new campus, they have ultimately led to positive change, growth and evolution of our labor compliance program. For instance, we now have a number of new suppliers. In some cases, these new suppliers are still getting accustomed to the requirements of our Labor Standards and how they need to operationalize them. We have also had a number of contracted staff whose employer changed during the transition from the old campus to Saadiyat.
While we appreciate that many members of our community care deeply about our contracted employees, it is important to keep in mind that that interviews with workers are conducted in a manner that produces actionable information, while protecting the individual. Interviewers should have a deep understanding of our Labor Standards and the underlying contract with the contract staff’s employer, as well as other important information that is likely to be relevant — such as background information on where the individual lives, how long they have been working with NYUAD, the level of their skills and performance, and access to their HR files. We encourage any member of the community who identifies something they believe may be a violation of our Labor Standards to promptly notify our Office, which can be done anonymously, and also encourage the contracted employee to visit us at any time and speak with us confidentially. We are also happy to report that since the start of the semester, we have received many visitors from our community, from NYUAD staff and contracted staff to faculty and students, and welcome this involvement.

How does the Office of Compliance and Risk Management work with the other organizations overseeing the rights of workers at NYUAD, for example Mott MacDonald, EC Harris and now Nardello and Co.?

Raza: Our Office meets regularly with our government partner regarding labor compliance monitoring. Recently a joint labor compliance working group was formed that includes representatives from our Office, our partner’s compliance and contract teams, as well as the NYUAD faculty.
Mott MacDonald is our external auditor. They contact us when they detect instances of non-compliance by our suppliers and ask us to remedy them as soon as possible. If we detect non-compliance by our partner’s suppliers we notify both our partners and Mott MacDonald. We also share our reports with Mott MacDonald.
EC Harris was appointed to monitor compliance for contracted employees working in construction roles on the Saadiyat campus.
Three of the most recent compliance report includes a description of those organizations involved in compliance efforts.
With respect to Nardello and Co., as explained in our partner’s statement on 25 June 25 2014,
“Tamkeen has appointed Nardello & Co. to conduct a review into the allegations made in recent media reports regarding labor and compliance standards as outlined in the project’s Statement of Labor Values related to the construction of the NYU Abu Dhabi campus on Saadiyat Island.”

How does the treatment of workers’ rights in the UAE affect NYUAD and the monitoring of the Statement of Labour Values?

Raza: Our Statement of Labor Values is based on UAE Labor Law. Our Supplier Code of Conduct is also based on UAE Labor Law and sets forth additional contractual requirements on our suppliers. Thus, benefits that a contracted staff meeting might have under the Supplier Code of Conduct, while working on the NYUAD project, might not apply to them when they stop working on the NYUAD project. That said, they would still be protected by UAE Labor Law. As an example, if we contractually require a supplier to ensure that all staff working on the NYUAD project live in a room that has no more than four people, they might be moved to a different room or accommodation that has more than four people in it once they stop working with us.

Who works in the Office of Compliance and Risk Management and what do they do?

Raza: Our Office includes a staff of six people with an extensive base of training and experience in compliance and risk. Our primary responsibility is to facilitate and monitor compliance and risk for NYUAD through our integrated Compliance and Risk Management Program. This program promotes a culture of compliance, integrity and ethics at NYUAD and throughout the university’s global network by coordinating and facilitating activities and providing services that project a proactive attitude toward compliance with local and U.S. laws and regulations, as well as university policies. It strives to minimize risks that threaten the achievement of our objectives and capitalize on those that further our objectives.
Additional reporting by Miraflor Santos. Connor Pearce is managing editor. Email him at 
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