Saudi Arabia

Binladin ‘lost billions’ since Makkah crane crash; 77,000 expats given final exit visas, say reports

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RIYADH: Saudi Binladin Group has lost billions since the government refused to grant it additional contracts after last year’s crane crash in Makkah that killed 107 people, for which the firm was found partially responsible, according to a local media report on Monday.

The censure of the company had included a review of existing projects, and a ban on travel for several members. This had placed the company in a precarious position, which resulted in them not being able to pay workers in Makkah and Jeddah, with 77,000 layoffs reportedly taking place, according to several reports.

A source quoted by a local newspaper has claimed the company has had 77,000 final exit visas issued for expatriate workers.

The construction giant confirmed to AFP that some staff have been let go, but gave no numbers.
“The size of our work force is always appropriate to the nature and size of projects and the timeframe they are to be carried out by the group,” said Yaseen Al-Attas, a Saudi Binladin Group spokesman.

He said work force changes would be normal “especially when some projects have ended or are about to end.”
Most of the jobs eliminated “are on specified term contracts” for particular projects, Al-Attas said in an e-mail.

“We understand that the reduction of the work force isn’t easy on everyone. But the group will continue to implement its obligations toward everyone, including the employees it has let go of.

“They have received their full dues” under the law, said Al-Attas.

Lawyer Hisham Al-Hanbouli said article 90 or the country’s Labor Law stipulates that firms must pay the wages of their workers, and treat them with respect. Article 81 stipulates that employees are entitled to abandon their posts if they are not paid.

Al-Hanbouli said that workers have every right to sue their employers if they are not paid and file complaints with the Labor Ministry. The ministry is obliged under current legislation to refer disputes to arbitration.

Lawyer Yaqub Al-Mutain said the country’s legislation protects the rights of all workers, which includes payment of salaries. Article 50 stipulates that workers have the right to leave if they are not paid, he was quoted as saying by a local publication.

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