Source: Saudi Binladin Group Lays Off 50,000 Workers

It has been among the greatest fears among both migrant and local workers, and now it’s apparently coming true.

Construction giant Saudi Binladin Group has reportedly laid off 50,000 staff — all foreigners — according to a report by Saudi newspaper al-Watan, citing unnamed sources. Affected workers were given permanent exit visa to leave Saudi Arabia.

In its LinkedIn profile page, Binladin, one of the Kingdom’s biggest companies and among the largest builders in the entire of Middle East, has a workforce of around 200,000.

The paper reported that workers refused to leave the country without receiving their wages; some have not received salaries for more than four months. In March, scores of workers gathered outside one of its offices to demand unpaid wages.

The company has benefited and prospered during Saudi Arabia’s economic boom in the past decade, employing hundreds of thousands of workers as it built the country’s flagship infrastructure projects including airports, roads and skyscrapers.

But as oil prices have been way down from their peak levels, the company has suffered as the government slashed spending on projects in its effort to curb a budget deficit that reached almost $100 billion last year.

Government-initiated labor reforms in 2011 aimed at putting more Saudi citizens into private sector jobs have made construction companies more difficult and expensive to hire foreign workers, putting more pressure in the industry.

Adding to its woes is an incident in September where a crane was toppled into Mecca’s Grand Mosque during a dust storm, killing 107 people. A court then ordered the suspension of Binlandin from taking up new contracts.