On Dec. 1, the New York Times published an article accusing NYU Shanghai of violating labor values and worker rights. In particular, the article commented on the way in which the working conditions that NYU Shanghai has set out (in their statement of labor values) are potentially not being met currently.

The article also made clear that NYU Shanghai has hired a law firm to conduct an audit of working conditions at the NYUSH campus, with the results being made public at the end of the year.

In direct response to this, an email was sent out by Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Lehman to the NYU Shanghai community, announcing the immediate establishment of the Committee on Labor Values, to ensure that all workers employed by NYU Shanghai are being provided with all rights, including minimum wage, social insurance and working hours, that Chinese law provides them with.

The Committee was also created in response to the ongoing inquiry into labor rights at NYU Abu Dhabi as it was suggested that workers at the Abu Dhabi campus were not adequately given access to these rights.

When asked about the issue, Chair of the Committee Chen Jian stated that the Committee was merely established to ensure that all rights were being respected, and all laws are being met. In Jian’s opinion, the Committee reflects “NYU Shanghai’s firm commitment to making sure that labor values are best respected in our everyday operation and life” .

Jian also rejected any and all rumors that labor rights are currently being violated at NYU Shanghai, instead the Committee was established “to make sure that NYU-Shanghai community will not allow anything such as violation of labor rights to happen.”

The working conditions that NYU Shanghai has set out are in apparant alliance with its Labor Statement and is also on par with standards set at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU New York. However, the only difference is that while NYU New York directly hire workers, NYU Shanghai is employing individuals through an agency, and it, therefore, becomes harder to regulate working conditions. Furthermore, there is also the concern that U.S. laws differ to Chinese laws when it comes to minimum wage. For example, while minimum wage is 8 USD in the state of New York, in Shanghai it is 2.76 USD, with the current exchange rate. Even taking into account differing costs of living, the two wages may not be on par with one another.

Even taking this into consideration, NYU Shanghai should at all times operate under Chinese law. Mirroring this, NYU Abu Dhabi should also be adhering to UAE law at all times. The institution of NYU has the responsibility to both the NYU community and the larger community to both adhere to respective government law and to comply with individual labor rights.



This article was written by Isabella Farr. Send an email to managing@oncenturyavenue.com to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Ng Meizhi

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