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Guggenheim Abu Dhabi boycott 'still in place'

International coalition of artists says it is still waiting on answers

The Gulflabor group of 43 artists says it is still awaiting answers over labour standards on Saadiyat Island.
The Gulflabor group of 43 artists says it is still awaiting answers over labour standards on Saadiyat Island.

The international coalition of artists who pledged to snub the Guggenheim Museum Abu Dhabi over worker conditions on Saadiyat Island has said the boycott remains in place.

The Gulflabor group of 43 artists said on its website that it was awaiting answers from Tourism & Development Investment Company (TDIC) about the role of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as monitor to supervise labour standards.

"We wish to affirm that the boycott remains in place and that Gulflabor Coalition members continue to meet regularly in New York," the group said in a statement.

It added: "The coalition remains in contact with the Guggenheim, TDIC, and Human Rights Watch in order to find adequate solutions to labour standards in Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island."

The boycott was first announced by Gulflabor in March. The group, which includes Kuwait-born artist Hamra Abbas and Syria’s Khaled Barakeh, said it was responding to reports of worker abuses such as unlawful recruiting fees and broken promises of wages, revealed in a 2009 Human Rights Watch report.

In its new statement, Gulflabor said: "Our work on this has already led to concrete results with the appointment in June of PwC as monitor to supervise labour standards on Saadiyat Island.

"This, for us, is a step in the right direction provided that PwC develops and implements a transparent and rigorous monitoring programme; works with one of the Human Rights Watch recommended independent monitors to develop their monitoring programme and that PwC does not have a conflict of interest with other companies or governmental entities in Abu Dhabi.

"We have made three requests to the Guggenheim about these matters. The Guggenheim has answered that they have not received updates on this from the TDIC."

In June, Human Rights Watch said that TDIC needed to take "additional steps" to protect migrant workers' rights on the Saadiyat Island project, which will include branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums.

HRW said these should include setting publicly-announced penalties for contractors that violate standards, and putting into effect remedies for workers whose rights are violated, including a direct promise to reimburse workers found to have paid recruiting fees.

Human Rights Watch also called on TDIC to use the new monitor to audit labour conditions on all of its Abu Dhabi projects.

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