Kuwait National guard to be deployed at oil facilities
Kuwait: Kuwait was to deploy national guard units yesterday to run and protect some oil facilities after workers announced a major strike for this weekend, a newspaper said. The units would start working at facilities in the state’s oil-rich southern region, Al-Rai said, citing unnamed sources. The report could not be confirmed. Kuwait’s oil workers’ union decided to begin an open-ended strike from Sunday after a dispute with the government over proposed pay cuts.
Hit by the sharp drop in crude prices, Kuwait is introducing a new payroll scheme for all public employees and wants to include the country’s 20,000 oil workers, which would mean an automatic cut in wages and incentives. The union decision for the strike at all production units and other facilities was taken on Monday, a day after talks with acting oil minister Anas Al-Saleh broke down. Saleh told parliament yesterday that negotiations with unions were still ongoing.
National oil conglomerate Kuwait Petroleum Corp said it had accepted a request by the ministry of social affairs and labor for negotiations with the workers. KPC spokesman Sheikh Talal Khaled Al-Sabah said the ministry had scheduled negotiations with the oil workers for today, and that the KPC would attend. Sheikh Talal said that under Kuwaiti laws, no strike can take place while negotiations are under way, urging workers and KPC and its subsidiaries not to “heed calls to obstruct work”. A spokesman for the workers told AFP that the union was meeting to study the ministry request and whether to attend new negotiations.
However, a labor union leader said plans for the strike by thousands of workers at state-owned oil, gas and petrochemical companies were in place, denying reports that negotiations were under way. “There are no negotiations between the unions and the government over the strike,” Farhan Al-Ajmi, head of the Petrochemicals Industries Company workers union, told Reuters. He 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. The union did not say how long the walkout would last.
Independent MP Mohammad Tana defended the employees’ demands and rejected any plan to cut their pay, saying that “benefits and incentives of the oil workers should not be touched”. “We are faced with a strike that could paralyse the country and may result in huge losses,” Tana told parliament. Sources cited by Al-Rai said Kuwait’s oil production of three million barrels per day would drop by between 500,000 bpd and one million bpd if the workers carry out their threat.
But the sources said exports and domestic sales would not be affected since reserves could cover any drop in production. A spokesman for Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) had said production and exports would not be affected by the strike, and a strategy was in place to deal with this kind of action where extra staff will be used to run operations.
Union chief Saif Al-Qahtani said Monday that workers presented alternatives during the meeting with the minister but they had been rejected. The union is also protesting plans to privatize parts of the oil sector. The other firms where workers plan to join the strike are Kuwait Oil Company, Kuwait Oil Tanker company, Equate Petrochemical Industries Company and Kuwait Gulf Oil Company. – Agencies
Source: Kuwait Times [Link]