Kuwait oil union rejects minister’s appeal to cancel strike

Kuwaiti Minister of Finance and Minister of Oil Anas al-Saleh speaks during a press conference about a financial and economic reform plan prepared by the Cabinet’s economic affairs committee on March 14, 2016 in Kuwait City

Kuwait City (AFP) – The oil workers union Saturday turned down an appeal from Kuwait’s acting oil minister to call off a total strike in protest at alleged pay cuts and to accept negotiations.

Anas al-Saleh, in a statement cited by the official KUNA news agency, urged workers to “give priority to the public interest and resort to reason and wisdom by sitting at the negotiations table.”

The union, however, immediately rejected the minister’s call as offering nothing new and said the strike will go ahead from Sunday morning.

“The strike will go ahead as planned,” union chief Saif al-Qahtani told AFP, holding oil companies and the minister responsible for the strike and the potential losses from it.

The minister assured the workers there will be no reduction to their salaries and other benefits.

State-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corp on Thursday reviewed “maximum” contingency plans in the face of the total strike threatened by oil workers.

Hit by the sharp drop in crude prices on world markets, 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.

KPC said the workers union had boycotted negotiations called for Thursday by the social affairs and labour ministry.

KPC had offered to “suspend” all spending cuts if the union agreed to join a committee to negotiate a settlement.

The union is also protesting plans to privatise parts of the oil sector.

Kuwait, OPEC’s fourth largest producer, currently pumps three million barrels per day.

A prolonged strike could slash production just as major crude producers meet in Doha on Sunday to discuss ways to deal with a huge output glut.


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