RIYADH: One of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful firms, the Saudi Binladin Group, has laid off 77,000 foreign workers, a Saudi daily reported on Monday, citing an anonymous company official.
The report 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.
Sources in March told Agence France-Presse that 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.
The firm could not immediately comment but asked Agence France-Presse to submit questions in writing.
The company official cited by Al-Watan daily said that as of Sunday 77,000 Binladin Group workers had received exit visas to leave the country.
He added that they were among 200,000 expatriates employed by the company, one of the largest builders in the world.
In addition, 12,000 out of the 17,000 Saudis working for the firm as engineers, administrators and inspectors were also expected to be let go, the source said.
On Friday, Al-Watan reported that 50,000 of the group’s staff were refusing to leave the country while their salaries remained unpaid after more than four months.
Another newspaper, Arab News, on Sunday cited employees of Saudi Binladin Group as confirming “massive layoffs.”
An Arab News report on Monday blamed “unpaid workers” for torching several Binladin Group buses in the city of Mecca over the weekend.
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 Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, toppled in September.
At least 109 people including foreign pilgrims died, leading King Salman to exclude the firm from new public contracts.