Amjad Bangash, managing director of Bechtel Rail
The Bechtel-led consortium that is planning to recruit a labour force of up to 25,000 people and 2,000 professional staff has said that it doesn’t envisage problems in attracting labour into the Kingdom.
A recent report said that up to a third of Saudi Arabia’s projects have been scrapped in recent months as thousands of workers on illegal visas are either fleeing the country during a current amnesty period or applying to the country’s Labour Ministry to correct their status and some contractors have complained that it is proving difficult to get new visas for expat workers approved.
The global managing director of Bechtel’s rail division, Amjad Bangash, told Construction Week that that “some” of the current difficulties experienced by staff in getting workers into the Kingdom is linked to the fact that so many workers have applied to change their status ahead of a recently-extended deadline of November 4.
“I think that amnesty period has had a bit of a rub-off. I guess people didn’t realise the scale of illegal workers.
“Obviously when your whole organisation is busy dealing with that they’re not going to be alos able to process the other stuff.”
Despite this, Bechtel’s long history of operating in Saudi Arabia – it built the first Dammam-Jubail rail link in the 1940s – and the experience its consortium partners have in handling large workforces stand it in good stead.
“When you talk to our partners in CCC and Almabani they are used to going and mobilising 5,000 or 10,000 in group visas on large projects in Saudi Arabia.
“In their opinion, if you do things in the way you are supposed to and you follow the process, there isn’t an impediment to bringing people in.”
Peter Dawson, president of Bechtel’s civil infrastructure division, also said that the company is committed to involving and developing Saudi staff to help deliver the project.
“There are a lot of great engineers coming out of university and we’ll be expecting to hire in the local economy as well and develop that.”
A special report on the Riyadh Metro will appear in issue 479 of Construction Week.