Kuwaiti oil workers begin strike over pay cut, privatization

April 17, 2016 2:05 pm

Kuwaiti oil workers arrive at the union headquarters in al-Ahmadi, south of Kuwait City, to protest pay cuts and plans to privatize parts of the oil sector, April 17, 2016. ©AFP

Thousands of oil industry workers in Kuwait have started an open-ended strike to protest against a government proposal to slash their wages and privatize parts of the sector.
“Thousands of workers began their strike” on Sunday, the oil workers union chief, Saif al-Qahtani, told AFP, adding that production was partially halted.
“Observed since 7:00 a.m. (0300 GMT), this open-ended strike will continue until the workers’ demands are met,” Qahtani said.
The global decline in crude oil prices has forced Kuwait to introduce a new payroll system, including cuts in salaries and benefits, for all public employees, including the state’s 20,000 oil workers.
Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) spokesman, Sheikh Talal Khaled al-Sabah, said following the strike’s beginning that the national oil conglomerate had started an “emergency plan” to make sure that local and international markets were not influenced by the walkout.
“Export operations are going ahead as planned and (KPC) is capable of responding to major international market demands, based on agreements with clients,” he said in a statement.
According to the statement, the plan ensures that all gas stations as well as Kuwait’s international airport and companies will continue to be supplied.

A general view of the Shuaiba oil refinery, south of Kuwait City, Kuwait, April 16, 2016 ©AFP

Sabah also called on Kuwaitis “not to listen to rumors that the strike has affected the needs of the local market,” stressing that Kuwait’s “reserves of gasoline and petrol derivatives are enough to meet the country’s demands for 25 days and strategic reserves could suffice for 31 more days.”
The KPC had earlier proposed to “suspend” all spending cuts if the oil workers union agreed to negotiate a settlement. However, the union rejected the offer.
The walkout, which could reduce the country’s output of three million barrels per day to as few as 500,000 barrels, comes at a time that major oil producers meet in Qatar to discuss ways to deal with a huge output glut.
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