The recent economic cutbacks affecting workers in the oil industry proposed by the government triggered a nationwide protest in Kuwait.
Thousands of workers gathered for protests at the start of the local workweek in the town of Ahmadi, where the state-run Kuwait Oil Co. has its headquarters, roughly 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Kuwait City.
Protesters displayed signs saying “Stop meddling with the rights of the oil sector workers!” and “We will not allow you to take away our rights,” witnesses said.
Unable to reach an agreement with the government, oil worker unions turned to protest. The Kuwait Petroleum Corp., which is the parent company of the Kuwait Oil Co. and other related firms, said it has employed an emergency plan to combat the demonstrations.
The government condemned the strike, warning in a statement from the Cabinet on Sunday that the strike is an “illegitimate act and a violation of the law” because of “its serious impact on the public interest.”
The statement, carried by the official Kuwait News Agency, added that government agencies have been ordered to impose legal sanctions on protesters if necessary. Sheikh Talal Al Khalid Al Sabah, the spokesman for Kuwait’s oil sector, said some retirees and contractors were being brought in to increase the already alarming numbers of those protesting. Kuwait is able to meet “the most prominent global market demands” and has enough stockpiles to serve local needs, he said in a statement carried by the official Kuwait News Agency.
Adel al-Fadhel, a spokesman for the Kuwait Oil Company Workers’ Union, said that workers have expressed their disapproval of the government’s inability to reach a common group with oil companies by picketing. “The government rejected our proposals and is adamant on decreasing employee salaries. This is not acceptable,” he said.
The strike comes as representatives of major oil producing nations convene in nearby Qatar to discuss plans to freeze oil output in an attempt to curb prices. The drop from over $100 a barrel in 2014 to around $40 now is straining budgets of large producers such as Kuwait.