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196 oil sector expat employees stranded outside Kuwait

KUWAIT CITY, Nov 7: The number of expatriate workers in the oil sector who are currently outside Kuwait is about 196. They were prevented from returning to the country due to the COVID-19 outbreak and closure of the country, reports Al-Anba daily.

It is worth mentioning that Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) paid salaries worth KD 1.2 million to these employees in three months – April, May and June.

According to informed sources, the number of expatriate workers in the oil sector who are currently outside Kuwait is 196. This includes ten employees in KPC’s administration  building, 121 employees in the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), 67 doctors and medical support professionals in Ahmadi Hospital, about 49 employees of the Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC), four employees of the Kuwait Oil Tanker Company (KOTC), two employees of the Petrochemical Industries Company (PIC), three from the Petroleum  International Company, three from KUFPEC, and four from KIPIC. As for the Kuwait Gulf Oil Company, it does not have any expatriate employees currently outside Kuwait.

Based on the aforementioned numbers, the cost incurred due to expatriate employees being outside the country is the highest in the Kuwait Oil Company reaching KD 820,000, followed by KNPC with KD 280,000.

When asked about the extent of the effect of the absence of expatriate workers on the progress of operations in the oil sector, the sources said, “The matter varies depending on the jobs and tasks they take up. There is no doubt that those who occupy a position of a specialized technical nature, their lack of presence affects the performance of work and affects the transfer of expertise and the qualification of the national human element.

According to the instructions, the salaries  were disbursed for those who had previously left the country on annual leave prior to the exceptional disruption of work in the country on March 12, 2020 and before the state took precautionary measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic including the suspension of flights on March 7, 2020, and were unable to return to the country and start work because of that. However, the salaries of other cases have been suspended.”

When asked if it is possible to dispense with these employees by not renewing their contracts, especially in light of not using them throughout the period of their travel, the sources explained that the matter differs from one employee to another based on the tasks they perform. The termination of the services of some who occupy marginal and semi-marginal jobs can be considered but it is not possible to terminate the services of those who occupy a specialized, professional or technical position. In general, KPC and its subsidiary companies follow the directions and decisions issued by the concerned state authorities and have not issued any directives in this regard yet.

They said, “The HR departments in KPC and its subsidiary companies performed their responsibilities based on the procedures and directives issued by the concerned state authorities, as well as what was stipulated in the bylaws and regulations for specialists in the concerned departments. The status of non-Kuwaiti employees who are outside the country and the conditions and reasons for their presence abroad was considered. The payment of salaries has been stopped for some of them according to the data and circumstances of each case”.

When asked about the absence of workers at their workplace and in the event that remote work is applied through the means of technology, would the wage they receive correspond to the tasks they accomplish, the sources replied, “The wage that a worker receives is determined based on the work contract that organizes his rights and the many obligations between the two parties. The right of an employee to receive his salary is the basic right that he entails in the responsibility of the employer. At the same time, it is the main obligation of the employer towards its employees.

Given the importance of the salary for the worker as it is the main source of income that he depends on to cover and meet his expenses and provide for the needs of his dependents, the project meant imposing a fence of legal protection for the worker’s wage and fortifying it. The legislator required the employer as a general rule to pay the workers’ wages on time and with the same value agreed-upon. Reducing the salary, stopping its disbursement or seizing it are impermissible except in cases whereby the limits, controls and conditions are legally determined. Accordingly, KPC and its subsidiary companies are bound to pay the wage agreed upon with the workers.”

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