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Kuwait customs workers strike over pay

Kuwait, March 14, 2012

Customs workers in Kuwait went on strike on Tuesday over wages, but an Oil Ministry official said there were no signs of serious disruptions at the country's ports.

Customs employees last waged a strike in October, disrupting oil shipments from the Opec member state. It was not immediately clear how many workers participated in Tuesday's strike. In October, some 3,000 workers took part in the two-day walkout.

 "Today's action is small. It is not causing a big problem, but we will have to see what happens tomorrow," said an official in Kuwait's oil ministry, who declined to be named.

The country is producing around 3 million barrels of oil a day, according to the state oil company KPC. The strike did not appear to have caused any notable problems at Kuwait's international airport or border crossings, consultancy Control Risks said in a note. It said there could be  possible demonstrations linked to the strikes.   

Last year's strike halted vessel traffic in and out of Kuwaiti ports, including at least five oil tankers. Workers from Kuwait Airways also went on strike last year.

On Monday Kuwait's government, under pressure from labour unions, announced a 25 percent pay increase to state workers  while at the same time ordering measures to head off inflation in the prices of basic goods.

The wage hike follows a series of strikes last year that put pressure on state companies to increase pay packets, as well as a snap election last month that saw the Islamist-led opposition take control of parliament.

The ministry has "instructed trade controllers to handle decisively any attempt to raise the prices of basic commodities", commerce ministry undersecretary Abdelaziz Al-Khaldi told state news agency KUNA. He did not elaborate on how prices would be controlled.

The upward pressure on wages in Kuwait, partly due to increased union activity since last year's Arab Spring social unrest in the region, has become a major issue for economic policymakers. The finance minister said last year that public sector wages had risen to about 85 percent of the country's oil revenues, which he called "a real danger".  - Reuters




Tags: Kuwait | strike | pay | Customs |

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