Kuwait City: Thousands of oil workers in Opec member Kuwait plan to go on strike over a government decision to cut their wages, the head of the oil workers union said on Wednesday.

“Trade unions of all oil companies have taken a decision to go on strike and authorised me to announce the date of the strike, which will be determined within the next two days,” Abdul Aziz Al Sharthan said.

“After making a number of legal procedures, I will set the date of the strike, which will be within two weeks,” he said after lengthly talks on Tuesday night with new Oil Minister Ali Al Omair and top oil executives “ended without resolving the problem”.

Sharthan said the crisis was the result of a decision by Kuwait Petroleum Corp (KPC), the national oil conglomerate, to “cut some benefits and increments” from oil workers.

The minister and oil executives refused to scrap the decision during the meeting and “tried to add some cosmetic procedures to it which we did not accept,” he said.

The two-week period is to give the government a final ultimatum to withdraw the decision and then negotiate the dispute with the oil trade unions, Sharthan said.

The strike will be total and include all production operations, exports, petrochemicals and others, he said.

The country’s oil sector employs around 19,000 Kuwaitis.

Kuwait currently pumps around 3.0 million barrels per day, around a quarter of which is exported in the form of refined products.

Oil officials could not be reached for comment.

Sharthan said the average wages of Kuwaiti oil workers was only half that of counterparts in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar.

But the head of parliament’s budgets committee, Adnan Abdul Samad, said in a statement on Wednesday that the wages of oil workers were highly inflated.

Based on budget figures for the last fiscal year, the average monthly salary for Kuwaitis employed in the government excluding the oil sector was $4,500, while in the oil sector it was more than $19,400, he said.