UPDATE 1-Kuwait oil and gas workers to go on strike from Sunday -union

Thousands of workers at state-owned oil, gas and petrochemical companies in Kuwait will stage a strike from Sunday in protest at a government plan to cut some of their benefits and wages, the president of the oil and gas union said on Monday.

“The union finds itself obliged to take the difficult decision to escalate with this announcement of a general strike in all sectors (of oil and gas) starting on Sunday, April 17 at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT),” Saif al-Qahtani, head of the Oil and Petrochemical Industries Workers Confederation, told a news conference.

The union did not say how long the strike would last.

Production and exports would not be affected by the strike, a spokesman for Kuwait’s national oil company Kuwait Petroleum Corp (KNPC), one of five state-owned companies that will be affected by the strike, said.

“If the strike happens we do have a strategy in place to deal with this kind of action where extra staff will be used to run operations” Khaled Al-Asousi, KNPC’s Deputy CEO for Support Services said, adding that some oil facilities might be shut down temporarily.

Workers fear reduced salaries, benefits and layoffs will be part of a planned government overhaul of the payroll system in the public sector.

Strikes are fairly common among public sector workers in Kuwait – one of the world’s richest countries per capita – unlike in other Gulf states like the United Arab Emirates, where unions are banned.

The other companies where workers plan to join the strike are Kuwait Oil Company, Kuwait Oil Tanker company, Equate Petrochemical Industries Company and Kuwait Gulf Oil Company.

OPEC-member Kuwait pumps 3 million barrels of crude per day and has three refineries with a combined capacity of 930,000 bpd. (Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy, Writing by Tom Finn; editing by Susan Thomas and Susan Fenton)

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