Concerns over a government payroll overhaul prompt oil workers to strike in Kuwait

Concerns over pay and benefits have led oil and gas unions in Kuwait to call for a strike starting the same Sunday as the production freeze talks are set to be help between OPEC and non-OPEC members in Doha, Qatar.

Thousands of workers in state-owned oil and gas companies including Kuwait Petroleum Corp. (KPC), Kuwait Oil Company, Kuwait Oil Tanker Company, Equate Petrochemical Industries Company, and Kuwait Gulf Oil Company plan to strike if their demands are not met, reports Reuters.

Acting oil minister Anas al-Saleh said on Wednesday that talks were proceeding between the government and unions to avert the strike, a report which was refuted by Farhan al-Ajimi, head of the Petrochemicals Industries Company workers’ union. Aljimi said the door for negotiations had been closed since the last meeting with Saleh earlier this week.

“The strike will not be cancelled or suspended until all the demands are met,” he said.

Workers are concerned that their salaries and benefits will be cut, and that some may even face layoffs as part of a planned government overhaul of the payroll system in the public sector.

Strikes are not uncommon in Kuwait, unlike in other Gulf states like the UAE where unions are banned entirely. Under Kuwaiti law, no strike can take place while negotiations are under way though, making it even more pertinent for government agencies to begin working through the disagreement with the union.

A spokesman for Kuwait National Petroleum Company said production and exports would be unaffected by the strike, and that a strategy was in place to deal with this kind of action where extra staff will be used to run operations.

Kuwait’s crude oil production has remained relatively flat through the first quarter of the year according to OPEC’s April Monthly Oil Market Report. Kuwait produced 2.8 MMBOPD in March, the same as it produced in February, and just slightly higher than in the first month of the year.

Tags: , ,

Legal Notice