Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has lifted the ban on Saudi construction giant Binladin Group from bidding for projects after the group failed to pay salaries and fired workers, leading to huge protests in Mecca and Jeddah where four buses were also burnt down. Majority of these workers are foreigners, consisting of a large number of Indians, who come from humble backgrounds back in their country. The Saudi Binladin Group was founded more than 80 years ago by the father of al-Qaeda terrorist leader killed by the US SEALS – Osama bin Laden. It developed landmarks including the domed Faisaliah Tower in central Riyadh and the Makkah Royal Clock Tower, one of the world’s tallest buildings.
After thousands of layoffs and workers not being paid their salaries for up to six months, tensions started to mount as protests turned violent within the company premise. Saudi newspaper al-Watan reported that the group had dismissed 77,000 foreign workers and issued exit visas for them to leave the country. The company has further plans to lay off 12,000 of the 17,000 Saudis who work for it in supervisory, administrative, engineering and management jobs. This means over a quarter of the workforce will be affected by the retrenchment process out of the total 200000 workers.
Saudi Arabia is investigating mob riots reportedly carried out by disgruntled employees belonging to the Group.
The group was penalised after one of its cranes collapsed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca in September, killing 107 people after which a travel ban was imposed on its top managers. That ban has also been lifted. The company has been facing troubled times since the economic slowdown resulting from falling oil prices.
The group’s biggest project today is the Jiddah Tower. The tower will be the tallest building in the world at one kilometer high. It will have a 7,500 square-foot sky terrace. Construction is underway and the skyscraper is due to be finished in 2020.