Kuwaiti oil workers arrive at the union headquarter in Al Ahmadi, 35 km south of Kuwait city, on April 17, 2016, to protest alleged pay cuts and plans to privatise parts of the oil sector. Image Credit: AFP

Kuwait: Kuwait’s government has asked the relevant authorities to take legal action against illegal strikes and bring to account anyone involved in the disruption of the country’s vital utilities.

The cabinet said in a statement on Sunday it had asked Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) to take all necessary measures in order to supply the required workers in order to keep work and production at oil facilities, and to honour local and international commitments.

It also urged all workers in the oil sector to show responsibility, sacrifice and positive responsible response by giving top priority to the country’s higher interests, Kuwait News Agency (Kuna) reported.

The cabinet added it had monitored, “with deep sorrow and profound resentment,” the negative effects of the strike carried out by some oil workers, since the industrial action targeted the disruption of vital oil facilities.

It also reviewed aftershocks, losses, as well as other direct and indirect harm that could damage the country’s reputation and status.

The authorities voiced full respect to all constitutional rights, mainly public liberties and freedom of expression, but within specific limits set out by Law 11 for 1996, excluding the right of strike due to its serious impacts on the public interest.

This makes the strike an illegitimate act and a violation of the law, which should be resolutely addressed and requires legal action against all those involved, the cabinet said.

However, the cabinet said it appreciated the nature and significance of work and efforts of the workers of the vital oil sector, and highly commended all sincere efforts, distinguished efficient staff and all works of serious and sensitive nature at different positions and levels, the official news agency reported.

The country’s critical economic situation triggered by low oil prices requires that everybody should show national responsibility, sacrifice and positive responsible response to such challenges, and give top priority to higher interests, rather than narrow ones, the cabinet said.

According to the statement, the Deputy Premier, Finance Minister and Acting Minister announced that KPC would keep intact oil workers’ rights and benefits gained in line with the arbitration body and relevant international conventions.

Article 103 of Law 6 for 2010 regarding working in the private sector, which applies to the oil sector, stipulates that employers and their unions must respect all laws in the state and exercise their activities within specific goals, and regulate a dispute-settlement mechanism that does not include strikes, the cabinet added.

It emphasised that there should not be any threat to the country’s interests, reputation or status.

Acting Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Acting Oil Minister Anas Al Saleh had, in a press release, called on the sector and workers’ unions “to resort to wisdom and consider the higher interests of the nation “and sit at the negotiating table to avert disputes in the Kuwaiti oil sector that are detrimental to the country’s image and status locally and internationally.”

On Sunday, KPC and its subsidiaries said exports had been carried out smoothly despite the strike by oil workers, and production at a fertiliser plant, closed earlier in the day, had resumed.

The official spokesman of the oil sector, Shaikh Talal Al Khalid Al Sabah, said tankers were supplied with crude oil and by-products “which affirms to our clients that KPC is capable of honouring demands of international market.”

He confirmed that operations at the fertiliser plant, which were suspended earlier to use the gas in the factory for power stations, were resumed.

Shaikh Talal said gas cylinder filling operations in Shuaiba and Umm Al Aish plants returned to normal daily production.

Kuwait National Guard (KNG) took over operations at the two plants earlier on Sunday and managed to resume functions suspended due to the strike.

Shaikh Talal said oil and gas production carried out by KOC was on the rise and that “reaching the normal average figures is not far.”

He added that KOC called retirees and some workers from local companies, and would operate crude oil gathering centre No. 24 on Sunday.

He said that KNPC’s three refineries were operating normally, and that fuel supplies were reaching local gas and power stations.

Contingency plan working

Meanwhile, Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) said early on Monday that all oil installations have been operating successfully according to the contingency plan it had worked out with Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC).

All the plans that have been drawn up “to deal with the crisis have been executed and activated,” the KNPC said in a statement.

“The company has succeeded in securing supplies for fuel and power stations to meet the local market needs, according to the available capacities and resources, despite the circumstances caused by the strike,” the KNPC said, Kuwait News Agency (Kuna) reported.

The statement was issued after Shaikh Talal said that the emergency plan, executed by the KPC, was proceeding according to the schedule.

“Developments have been followed up closely through the crisis operation room of the KBPC and its subsidiaries,” he said, quoted by the official news agency.