KUWAIT: In April, thousands of employees in the oil sector went on a strike protesting against any deduction in their salaries and other benefits as part of the new strategic payroll alternative, and after a drop in oil prices, which strongly affected national income. After the strike in Kuwait, many oil companies started taking measures by cutting their expenditures. The government wants to introduce a new payroll scheme for all public employees including the 20,000 oil workers, which means an automatic cut in wages and incentives.
After the three-day strike, which dropped local oil production by 60 percent, the demands made by the workers were met. After the formation of the new government and parliament, this issue could be raised again. Kuwait Times interviewed Saif Al-Qahtani, Head of Kuwait’s Oil Union, who spoke about various issues related to the rights of oil workers.
Kuwait Times: What are your views about the new Cabinet?
Qahtani: The new Cabinet does not change the bad reality. If the new Cabinet doesn’t present a clear work plan soon, then it won’t be any different than the previous one. Yet we are optimistic and with time we will be able to evaluate and judge it.
KT: What are your aspirations and do you have any new demands?
Qahtani: We look forward towards a real development process in all fields including expanding oil industries and keeping the oil sector away from privatization. Having the private sector as a partner in the oil sector is theft of public funds. We also demand attention towards manpower, attracting it, developing it and improving its skills, as this is the main element and pillar of this industry.
KT: What challenges do workers face?
Qahtani: The government’s poor performance is the biggest obstacle. The government is not able to develop or increase national income. In addition, it wrongly understands rationalization, and blames citizens for its failures. Such officials should be terminated from their posts.
KT: What about the strategic payroll alternative and the economic reform document?
Qahtani: Till now, the government or the parliament has not officially explained the strategic alternative. According to some people, this scheme should equalize the salaries of all employees in the public sector, which will be a disaster. The wages should be set according to equity in duty responsibilities and its importance. The labor market all over the world doesn’t follow such random labor rules, through which we might lose experienced skilled staff in all fields.
Regarding the economic reform document, we haven’t seen any real reforms and development. The reforms should start with stopping wastage of public funds and corruption and by not selling the only source of income of the country, which is the oil sector. This option should be far from consideration, and this sector should be completely controlled by the state, while the private sector can be a partner in other sectors.
By Nawara Fattahova