Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), the state-owned oil conglomerate, has announced emergency plans have been reviewed to confront the looming strike by workers in the country’s oil industry.
A statement from KPC said its board of directors had discussed “alternative plans and precautionary measures” at all its affiliate companies after the oil workers union declared an open-ended strike from Sunday, 17 March, over planned pay cuts.
Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), responsible for upstream production and exploration, and Kuwait National Petroleum Corporation (KNPC), in charge of downstream operations including refining, are believed to have reported to KPC the various plans and contingency measures they have put in place to ensure continued workflow. Units of the National Guard are said to be preparing to run and protect some oil facilities during the strike.
The call for a total strike in the oil industry comes in the wake of government plans to introduce a new payroll structure for all public-sector employees and its policy of gradually privatizing the oil sector. Falling oil revenues and a huge budget deficit are behind the authorities’ plans for cutting expenses and finding alternative sources of income. The streamlining of pay scales is bound to affect the more than 20,000 employees working in the country’s oil industry and could see many facing automatic cut in their wages and incentives.
Meanwhile, a statement from KPC said that the workers union had boycotted negotiations called for last week by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. KPC added that it had offered to “suspend’ all spending cuts if the union agreed to join a committee to negotiate a settlement.
For his part, Saif Al-Qahtani, the chief of the workers union said the negotiations were illegal and were aimed at only preventing the strike from happening. Insisting that the strike would go ahead as planned, Qahtani said, “We have explored all means to reach a negotiated settlement that safeguard workers’ rights but oil officials refused.”