05/04/2016, 10.00
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Saudi giant Binladen Group in crisis, 77 thousand foreign workers laid off

50 thousand workers refuse to leave the country claiming wages in arrears. 12 thousand contracts with Saudi workers and employees also at risk. The Saudi official unemployment rate is 11.5%, but the real figure could be much higher. Government's plan to disengage from the oil economy.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) - The Saudi construction giant Binladen Group has laid off 77 thousand foreign workers and, in the near future, could also tear up the contracts signed with 12 thousand local workers and employees.

The daily Al-Watan reports that 50 thousand migrants are refusing to leave the country because they haven’t been paid in at least four months. A company spokesman confirmed the layoffs but refused to comment on the figures and claims that all former employees have received their salary in accordance with the law.

After decades of growth and expansion, thanks to the many public contracts, even the Binladen Group - $ 5 billion in capital and tens of thousands of workers - is marking time because of the economic crisis and the downward spiral of oil prices.

As the name indicates, the Arab corporation is owned by the same family of Osama bin Laden - al Qaeda leader and once the most wanted man of international Islamic terrorism – who was one of the 52 sons of the founder Mohammed bin Laden. Among the various works carried out by the founder, the restoration of the famous al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

However, today the group has been affected by the economic crisis and a crane collapse in September 2015 at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, which caused the death of 109 people, has certainly not helped redeem the groups’ image. In response, King Salman himself decided to cut a series of contracts that had caused a period of crisis and uncertainty in the multinational.

According to an anonymous source in Al-Watan, in the last three days Binladen Group has laid off 77 thousand foreign workers on contract, who have already received their expulsion order from the Saudi authorities (employment is a necessary condition for a visa). The same source stated that in the past the company employed up to 200 thousand foreigners in the various construction sites of the country, with a higher incidence of Egyptians.

At least 50 thousand of the workers left jobless in recent days have opposed the deportation order, denouncing wage arrears for four months. The Saudi newspaper Arab News, also writes of "massive" layoffs reporting that a group of workers would set fire to seven of the company's trucks to Mecca to protest.

Official sources speak of a 11.5% unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia, but the real figure could be far higher. At the end of April, the country's government announced the sale of shares of oil giant Aramco and of having acquired a sovereign fund of $ 2 trillion, the largest in the world. A plan to diversify the national economy - the first in the Arab world - which so far has depended 70% on oil.

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