The Saudi labour minister vowed yesterday to ensure the Binladin Group keeps a promise to resolve wage issues, amid reports of thousands at the building firm facing unpaid salaries and layoffs.
Labour Minister Mufarrej al-Haqbani’s comments followed a Saudi newspaper report on Monday that Binladin Group, one of the world’s largest construction companies, was laying off 77,000 foreign workers.
The report in the Al-Watan newspaper was the latest alleging tens of thousands of layoffs and unpaid salaries at the firm, which built some of the Gulf country’s landmarks.
Saudi Binladin Group confirmed to AFP that some staff have been let go, but refused to provide any figures.
“The company promised to solve all the issues related to the wages,” Haqbani said on the sidelines of the Euromoney Saudi Arabia Conference in Riyadh.
He did not confirm the number of affected employees but said the ministry’s “top priority” is to ensure they get their salaries under the kingdom’s wage protection system.
“Once we notice a company delaying the salaries we will... send our inspectors,” Haqbani said.
He said foreign workers facing wage problems can either stay with the company, transfer contracts to another employer, or leave the country and assign someone to follow their case with the firm.
“The payment will never be forgotten even if they leave the country... and we as a ministry of labour will continue until we get the salaries of all the workers.”
Sources in March told AFP that delayed receipts from the Saudi government, whose oil revenues dropped significantly over the past two years, have left employees of the kingdom’s construction giants struggling while they wait for salaries.
Saudi Binladin Group was also suspended by the government from new public contracts after a deadly crane accident in Makkah last September.
Staff at another Saudi construction giant, Saudi Oger, have also complained of unpaid wages.
Haqbani insisted the problem was not widespread.
“We still have many expats coming to the country. Two cases will never be able to represent the situation of the labour market in Saudi Arabia,”
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