Kuwait’s oil workers end 3-day strike over pay cuts that nearly halved output

Kuwaiti oil sector employees sit in a shaded area on the first day of an official strike called by the Oil and Petrochemical Industries Workers Union over public sector pay reforms, in Ahmadi, Kuwait April 17, 2016. © Stephanie McGehee
Over 7,000 oil and gas workers have ended a three-day strike to protest government plans to cut wages and benefits, according to local newspaper reports. The strike has cut Kuwait’s oil production by almost half.

The labor union said on Twitter that the strike succeeded in sending a clear message to the government. According to the statement, the workers were able to show that they are the backbone of the economy, as oil output dramatically suffered.

“In honor of His Highness the Emir, on the basis of the principle of love and loyalty to His Highness, we decided to cancel the strike,” the statement concluded. 

The end of the strike was announced just hours after Kuwait’s acting oil minister, Anas al-Saleh, refused to negotiate until the workers had returned to their jobs, adding that oil production would continue.

“We cannot sit down at the negotiating table with the unions during a strike. We will achieve the impossible to continue to operate the oil sector despite the strike,” Saleh told Kuwaiti TV channel al-Rai.

Oil and gas workers were striking against government plans to reduce salaries and benefits, as well as layoff staff. Meanwhile, non-Kuwaiti employees continued to work.

“The overall number of workers exceeds 13,000, and here we have 7,000 [taking part in the strike],” TASS quoted the oil workers’ union chief, Saif al-Qahtani, as saying at the beginning of the strike.

Kuwait is OPEC’s third largest oil producer, with deposits amounting to eight percent of the world’s reserves.

The cut in Kuwaiti oil production has boosted crude futures on the commodity market. The walkout capped Kuwait Oil Company’s (KOC) output at 1.1 million barrels per day, down from a normal level of about 3 million barrels per day. By Tuesday, production had already been bumped up to around 1.5 million barrels per day, however.