ADNH Employees Moved From Substandard Housing

During the summer of 2014, the female dining hall staff at NYU Abu Dhabi were temporarily relocated from temporary housing in downtown Abu Dhabi to ...

Nov 15, 2014

During the summer of 2014, the female dining hall staff at NYU Abu Dhabi were temporarily relocated from temporary housing in downtown Abu Dhabi to substandard housing accommodations in a Mussafah labor camp. Eventually, the female dining hall staff were moved into downtown Abu Dhabi apartments well above the standards expressed in the Statement of Labor Values.
President of ADvocacy and senior Kimberly Rodriguez said that,
“After finding out about some issues a few weeks ago, myself and a group of students went up to the compliance team and discussed those issues with them. We found out that there were suspicions of contract violations with the dining hall staff when their contracts were transferred over the summer.”
Another group of students previously learned that NYUAD was aware of the possible transfer in accommodations earlier, in Spring 2014, when the university still held the workers’ contract. Students were closely monitoring the situation and were in contact with the female workers.
NYUAD and Tamkeen, the university’s government partner, hold contracts with companies whose employees carry out various services on campus. The dining hall staff are employees of ADNH Compass, a joint venture between Abu Dhabi National Hotels and Compass, a British multinational contractor.
There are four companies that are contracted by the university and Tamkeen which have staff on campus: Serco for facilities, ADNH for dining, whose contracts are held by Tamkeen, Securitas for security guards and Global Wings for drivers, whose contracts are held by NYUAD.
Over the summer, NYUAD’s contracts with ADNH and Serco were transferred to Tamkeen, NYUAD’s government partner. This, and the transition from downtown Abu Dhabi to Saadiyat Island, resulted in numerous changes, one being a change in the contracts of the female dining hall staff continued with the university.
“A lot of the contracts were changed and employees, especially those who transferred from Sama, were not very happy with the changes. A group of students and I were very curious about this and not very happy with them either.” Rodriguez said.
Before the move, the female staff used to receive a base salary, an accommodation stipend and a transportation stipend. Their accommodation and transportation stipend, in transferring over to Tamkeen, were both removed and replaced by in-kind benefit. They received the stipend in the first place because the systems and accommodations for female labor workers are not as developed as the accommodations for male workers.
In the past, this stipend afforded them the flexibility to choose their own accommodations and many were able to save and send the money they didn’t spend back home. They also had a transportation stipend to help them go from their accommodations to campus. The university had to monitor that their accommodations complied with NYUAD’s labor values.
In the transfer of contracts, women’s accommodation and transportation stipends were replaced by in-kind compensation, meaning they were provided with housing and transportation rather than cash. When contracts were transferred over to Tamkeen, the employees were moved to Mussafah labor camps.
One female dining staff member — names have been removed to protect the identity of the source — said that, “They told us they cut our housing and transportation allowance, so they put us there in the Cleveland [Clinic] company accommodations in a villa in Mussafah. The room they put us in was the dining hall. They were not bedrooms. They just put 6 bunk beds in the [dining hall]. [Some also stayed in] four-person rooms. It was very hard living there. They told us it was only temporary, a two week thing, but it became a month and then another month. We stayed there for 2 months and couple weeks.”
"We were told that they were temporarily living in rooms with 12 people per room which is a direct violation of the NYU Labor standards. The NYU Labor Standards states that there can be no more than four people per room,” Rodriguez stated.
This allegation was reported to the Office of Compliance and Risk Management and it has been investigated. However the detailed results of the investigation cannot be disclosed because of their confidentiality policy.
According to the female dining hall staff, they were moved into the temporary Mussafah accommodations on Aug. 1 and moved out and into apartments in Abu Dhabi on Oct.10.
“These were people we had grown up with and have been with us since we were freshmen. They are our second mothers. They really care about us, we really care about them. They are an integral part of the university experience. Seeing them very upset made us upset. We brought this up to administration and through administration we were able to have a meeting with NYUAD’s compliance team.The housing was a violation of the contract and that has been amended. Now there are only four people per room. With the stipend issue, that was not a violation, but a change in the contract. I think the initial contracts were great and the new contracts require adjustment but there were no violations in terms of the contract changes, just a replacement of what has been provided,” Rodriguez said.
“The NYU [compliance team] took action because they knew our situation was not good in our accommodations before. They reassured us that the problem would be fixed. When we were in a bad situation, we talked to NYU so they could help us. We went to the NYU [compliance team] and that’s why we are in better situation now,” said a female dining hall staff member.
“Now it’s good,” said a female dining hall staff. “If we want to go out, there are lots of taxis and buses, unlike before. Before there were a lot of problems in the previous accommodation. At least now, when we go home we can relax and have peace of mind.”
Rodriguez stated, “I think [compliance] is working very hard to ensure that despite the fact that the contracts have been changed there are no differences in the types of services the workers receive. The compliance team checks in with every employee to make sure that living conditions are acceptable and not just meeting the bare minimum but acceptable in terms of what we would expect as a student body.
NYUAD Associate Officer of Compliance and Risk Management Erum Raza stated the importance for the community to take an active role in protecting the staff from possible violations:
“We encourage members of the community to continue to contact us should they have any concerns about the treatment of the men and women who help operate our campus.These individuals are members of our community.To best protect our contract staff, we encourage the community and our contract staff to report any problems or concerns directly to our office. This can be done in a number of ways including by calling our anonymous helpline, filing an anonymous online complaint or visiting us in person.”
The contracts with ADNH and Serco are currently in the process of being transferred back to NYUAD from Tamkeen. This move would allow NYU to more fully oversee ADNH and Serco workers.
Assistant Professor in Arab Crossroads Studies Justin Stearns commented on the issue:
“There were a lot of changes but this precise one really hit people because those were people they knew and had a personal relationship with as opposed to all the other contract workers whose contracts also changed, but didn’t register on the student radar as much. There are a lot of other workers out there who may have similar issues possibly but we don’t know about them because as much because we don’t interact with them, but that’s changing,” Stearns said.
Rodriguez stated, “Things are not going to happen overnight, things are going to change over a long period of time. It’s frustrating to hear but we can’t make any changes really fast. But changes have been happening faster than I expected. The school has been very responsive.”
Miraflor Santos is staff writer. Email her at
gazelle logo