Kuwait oil and gas workers go on strike over pay reforms

Kuwaiti workers fear the reforms could reduce salaries and diminish other benefits.

Kuwaiti oil workers arrive at the union headquarters in Al Ahmadi, 35km south of Kuwait City, to protest alleged pay cuts and plans to privatise parts of the oil sector. Yasser Al Zayyat / AFP Photo
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Kuwaiti oil and gas industry workers began a strike on Sunday over public sector pay reforms which they fear could reduce salaries and diminish other benefits, union members said.

Non-Kuwaiti workers in the industry did not go on strike, however, and it was not immediately clear if oil and gas output was seriously affected.

Kuwait National Petroleum Co (KNPC), a subsidiary of Kuwait Petroleum Corp (KPC) and one of five state-owned companies affected, has said there is a contingency strategy to ensure production and exports will not be hurt.

The union has not said how long the strike, involving thousands of workers at state-owned oil, gas and petrochemical companies, will last.

KPC and its subsidiaries agreed to temporarily freeze a planned government overhaul of the payroll system and seek a compromise through a joint committee with the workers’ union, a spokesman for Kuwait’s oil sector, Sheikh Talal al-Khaled al-Sabah, said last week.

But the union head, Saif al-Qahtani, called that “playing with words”. “The KPC statement is talking about ‘freezing’ the decisions, while our demand is to cancel them,” Mr Qahtani, head of the Oil and Petrochemical Industries Workers Confederation, told Reuters.

UPDATE: Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) said it had lowered crude output to 1.1 million barrels per day crude (bpd) under a plan to cope with the strike by oil workers, down from its normal production of about 3 million bpd.

In a posting on the KOC Twitter account, company spokesman Saad Al-Azmi said oil production had reached 1.1 million barrels per day as a result of the emergency plan to handle the strike.


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