Buses set on fire in protest as Saudi Binladin Group dismisses 50,000 staff

Author: PM editorial | Date: 11 May 2016

Government allows firm to bid for state contracts in effort to curb further redundancies

Employees at the Saudi Binladin Group set fire to at least seven buses amid protests over unpaid wages and the sacking of 50,000 foreign workers.
 
Such protests in Saudi Arabia are rare but employees say they haven't received their wages for six months. The attack on the buses came the day after the Saudi Al-Watan newspaper reported the organisation has terminated employment for 50,000 foreign workers and issued them with exit visas. But some workers are refusing to leave the country until their wages are paid.
 
A spokesperson for Saudi Binladin Group, Yaseen Alattas, told AFP: “We understand that the reduction of the workforce isn't easy on everyone. But the group will continue to implement its obligations towards everyone, including the employees it has let go of.”
 
The Saudi Binladin Group is a huge employer in the region and is responsible for the construction of some of the KSA’s most recognisable landmarks, such as the Abraj Al Bait Towers in Mecca and Al Faisaliyah Centre in Riyadh.
 
The government has responded by allowing the construction giant to bid on state contracts; it was previously banned from doing so in September 2015 after an accident at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, when one of its cranes fell and killed 107 people.
 
Labour minister Mufrej Al Haqbani, speaking to reporters at a business conference in Riyadh, said the workers would receive their salaries but did not say how Saudi Binladin would find the money to pay its staff. According to Reuters, which spoke to commercial bankers in the Gulf, the company already owes banks around US$30 billion.
 
Low global oil prices have been blamed by leaders in the construction industry for reducing and delaying government spending on building and infrastructure.