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15 unions worldwide have now signed an international agreement on defending education and employment standards in the context of global marketisation. Together, these unions represent more than half a million tertiary education workers around the world.

The deepening global recession and the cutting back of public provision will only give greater encouragement to a burgeoning private sector, making the international agreement only more relevant and important.

We are now turning this community of over 500,000 academics into something tangible.

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Labour rights to be protected at NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus

Construction workers building New York University’s new Abu Dhabi campus will be guaranteed some basic protections under a deal announced earlier this month by the university.

NYU had been facing mounting criticism from human rights and labour organizations over the university’s controversial venture into the United Arab Emirates where the basic rights of workers are routinely violated. Human Rights Watch has reported that UAE labour laws, “fail to protect workers’ rights to organize and to bargain collectively, provide punishments for striking workers, and exclude from coverage domestic workers employed in private households.”

Under the terms of the deal reached this month, NYU will require companies contracted to build the university’s branch campus to reimburse employees for any fees they may have paid to recruitment agencies, ensure that overtime is voluntary and property compensated, and provide employees with vacation and paid holidays.

While the agreement is important, gaps nevertheless remain. There doesn’t appear to be any independent monitoring mechanism, nor is there a duty for employers to pay a living wage or recognize the right of employees to bargain collectively.

However, the deal may be something education unions can build upon to press their domestic institutions into fully respecting core labour rights when operating overseas.

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