RIYADH (Web Desk) – One of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful firms, Saudi Binladin Group, has laid off 77,000 foreign workers and plans to cut thousands of jobs held by Saudi nationals.
The report in a Saudi daily is the latest over the past few days alleging tens of thousands of layoffs, unpaid salaries and unrest by employees of the firm which built some of the Gulf country’s landmarks.
Binladin has issued 77,000 final exit visas to foreign workers so that they can leave Saudi Arabia, and is expected to lay off 12,000 of 17,000 Saudis in supervisory, administrative, engineering and management jobs, Al Watan newspaper quoted an unnamed source in the company as saying yesterday.
While Saudi construction companies regularly cut or expand their foreign staff in response to changing demand in the industry, they rarely lay off large numbers of Saudis, partly because it is legally difficult and expensive.
The total workforce at Binladin, one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest firms and among the Middle East’s largest builders, is around 200,000, according to its LinkedIn page.
Asked to comment, Binladin did not give a figure for job cuts but said: “Our manpower size is always proportional to the nature and scale of the undertaken projects, along with the time spans required to complete them.
“Adjusting the size of our manpower is a normal routine especially whenever projects are completed or near completion. Most of the released jobs had initially been recruited for contracted projects with specific time frames and deliverables.”
According to Al Jazeera, delayed receipts from the government, whose oil revenues collapsed over the past two years, have left employees of the kingdom’s construction giants struggling to survive while they await their salaries.
However, Saudi Binladin Group was also sanctioned by the government after a deadly crane accident at one of its projects last September.
After decades of thriving on lucrative government contracts, the company faced unprecedented scrutiny after one of its cranes working on a major expansion of the Grand Mosque in Makkah toppled in September.
At least 109 people including foreign pilgrims died, leading King Salman to exclude the firm from new public contracts.
In addition, the company has been hit by fallout from low oil prices which have led to government spending cuts to curb a budget deficit that totalled nearly $100bn last year.
The cuts have forced Binladin and other construction companies to delay paying some workers’ salaries, in some cases for months. In response, some unpaid staff have stopped turning up for work, slowing work on some Binladin projects such as the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh.
The company has declined to describe its financial situation publicly.