… by Ian Greenhalgh
Normally a labour dispute would not be important news; however, in this case it is worth reporting because it is symptomatic of the simmering situation in Saudi Arabia where large portions of the population are disgruntled with the Wahabbi regime and the waves of unrest are fuelled by a war going badly in Yemen.
Low oil prices have been hurting Saudi finances for some time; however, I do not think it is credible to suggest the vastly wealthy BinLadin family cannot afford to pay these workers.
Perhaps the real reason for effectively expelling 50,000 foreign workers from the Kingdom is more to do with quelling unrest among the massive migrant workforce than any financial issues?
Whatever the reason, this is another worrying sign as far as stability of the Saudi regime is concerned and shows that the recently announced reforms are long overdue.
1 May 2016, Arab News
Saudi Binladin workers burn company buses in Makkah
Several company buses of Saudi Binladin Group were burned in Makkah on Saturday night, in the latest trouble facing the construction giant.
Maj. Nayef Al-Sharif, the spokesman for the Civil Defense in Makkah, said late Saturday that firefighters put out the blaze without any injuries reported.
The attack comes a day after the company terminated employment for 50,000 foreign workers and issued them exit visas.
The company has seen increasing restiveness among its staff over not being paid salaries for months and a large round of reported layoffs.
The Binladin Group has not issued any statements about the reported layoffs or the unrest. Calls and an e-mail request for comment to the company were not immediately returned.
For several weeks, thousands of the firm’s employees have been staging rare protests in Makkah and Jeddah, with some saying they have not been paid for six months.
Among those laid off were engineers, foremen, steel fixers, carpenters and welders at the firm. Many of those workers are apparently refusing to leave without being paid their late wages.
Gulf-based construction firms have been among the hardest-hit due to lower oil prices that have curbed and sometimes delayed government spending on major infrastructure projects.
The Saudi Binladin Group is one of the world’s largest construction firms. Founded in 1931 and headquartered in Jeddah, the firm has been behind some of Saudi Arabia’s most important projects, including roads, tunnels, airports, universities and hotels. It has carried out expansion work throughout the holy city of Makkah to accommodate more Muslim pilgrims, including construction of a massive clock tower with luxury hotels.
But the firm has been barred lately from acquiring new contracts after an initial government probe found the construction company was partly responsible for a crane collapse at the Grand
Mosque last year that killed 111 people days before the start of the annual Haj pilgrimage.
The crane boom pierced the roof of the mosque housing Islam’s holiest site, the Kaaba, bringing down slabs of reinforced concrete and leaving bodies of worshippers lying amid pools of blood on the mosque floors.