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KUWAIT CITY, April 13, (Agencies): Kuwait was to deploy national guard units Wednesday 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 Gulf 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 Wednesday 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 labour for negotiations with the workers. KPC spokesman Sheikh Talal Khaled Al-Sabah said the ministry had scheduled negotiations with the oil workers for Thursday, and that the KPC would attend. He urged oil employees to reject the strike. A spokesman for the workers told AFP that the union was meeting to study the ministry request and whether to attend new negotiations. 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. 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 privatise parts of the oil sector. Kuwait’s oil production is expected to reduce by 500,000 — 1,000,000 barrels per day if the employees of the oil sector stages a strike that is planned for next Sunday, reports Al-Rai daily quoting informed sources.
They revealed that the National Guard from Wednesday will secure the installations in Al-Shuaiba and Umm Al-Aish refineries for ensuring their safety and for managing the operations. The sources affirmed that the local requirement for oil will not be affected by the strike, as it will be covered by the strategic reserves. They indicated that the biggest challenge the oil sector will face is that the employees of the two major oil companies in Kuwait — Kuwait Oil Company and Kuwait National Petroleum Company — will not be working during the strike period due to which these companies will seek the services of former employees and the contractors as well as those employees who prioritize the interest of Kuwait before their personal interests.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the labor union of Petrochemical Industries Company Farhan Al-Ajmi said he held discussions with the employees and received good response from them concerning their participation in the strike based on the union’s decision. He stressed that the employees are not seeking new benefits but are protesting against the withdrawal of their current benefits. Al-Ajmi indicated that holding the strike for ten days will cost the state more than KD 1 billion but the state has to just spend KD 185 million for five years to continue providing the same benefits to the employees.