Cash-strapped construction giant Saudi Binladin Group has reportedly received around $1 billion from the Saudi Arabian government to honour unpaid wages owed to hundreds of its workers.
The contractor was paid between $800 million and $1.1 billion in September, intended to give migrant labourers made redundant enough money to leave the kingdom, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The government payments were not disclosed at the time and it is not known exactly how much has reached the workforce to date. The family-owned construction behemoth has suffered from a fall in projects as a result of the low oil price and its employees have been widely reported to be awaiting several months’ worth of dues. Thousands of employees have been made redundant.
The WSJ quoted an unnamed source as saying: “This is a Band-Aid, this is not the final solution; it’s only the start of what [the Saudi government] should have done a long time ago.”
The newspaper reported that Saudi Arabia’s other major construction company, Saudi Oger, is on the verge of bankruptcy and unable to pay thousands of current and recently laid-off workers. However, it is not known whether Saudi Oger has also received, or will receive, a similar cash injection from the government to help it pay its workers, WSJ said.
Conditions in both firms’ labour camps have deteriorated in recent months, with some even running out of food. Many laid-off workers have yet to retrieve their passports or cannot afford to return to their home countries.
It was reported on August that the Indian Consulate had been forced to step in and distribute food packages to such “stranded” workers; it later struck a deal with Saudi Arabian authorities to allow workers to renew their residency permits or fly home, free of charge.