15 April, 2016Oil unions call for indefinite strike after Kuwaiti Petroleum Corporation unilaterally imposes new conditions.
Over the past months, the government of Kuwait has developed a new draft law for public sector jobs called the Strategic Alternative to Salary Scale. The law includes measures to reduce government costs by “harmonizing” pay.
However, many parts of the public sector – including the military, doctors and engineers – are exempt from the new plan. In Kuwait, oil workers are covered by separate labour legislation which should exempt them also.
In a disturbing development, the state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) has unilaterally imposed the new plan and issued new regulations without consultation with the unions. The new regulations will lead to cuts in oil workers’ wages, and end longstanding benefits.
The oil workers are represented by IndustriALL affiliate the Oil and Petrochemical Industries Workers Confederation (OPIWC), the largest oil union in the country and the only one to represent workers at state-owned oil, gas and petrochemical companies. The OPIWC immediately entered negotiations with the KPC and the acting oil minister, urging the authorities to uphold existing laws and to:
- Stop the implementation of all new resolutions submitted to the oil minister for approval, which affect the rights and gains of workers covered by labour regulations, agreements and judiciary verdicts.
- Establish a joint committee with the KPC to guarantee that any changes made to existing legislation will be done with full consultation.
- Exempt the oil sector from the Strategic Alternative bill.
Due to the failure of the negotiations, the OPIWC and workers in the sector were forced to take action. On the 11 April 2016, the OPIWC convened an extraordinary congress which committed to an indefinite strike, to begin on 17 April.
IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina sent a letter of solidarity to the OPIWC, and expressed the union’s displeasure to the Kuwaiti oil minister.
“We stand with you in full solidarity with your strike”,
“IndustriALL Global Union deplores the recent unilateral measures adopted by the government, including the drafting of a law under the title of 'Strategic Alternative', that would seriously curtail long standing benefits, wages, as well as impose possible layoffs.”