Kuwait strikes ground planes, block goods

March 21, 2012

Kuwait Airways, the Gulf state’s national carrier, on Monday said that it cancelled flights for a third day in a row following a strike by its employees.

Adel Bouresli, the company’s relations and media head, said that the airline cancelled flights to and from Kuwait until 5pm.

“The company expresses its regret about the situation and stresses its endeavours to provide the best comfort for its passengers,” the PR head said in remarks carried by Kuwait News Agency (Kuna).

Ailing Kuwait Airways has a fleet of 17 aircraft that fly mainly to destinations in the Middle Eastern, Europe and Asia.

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The industrial action by the airline compounds a terrible situation for Kuwaitis, who are usually pampered by cradle-to-grave state-provided benefits, after a strike by customs officials who refused to resume work until they receive better remunerations and greater benefits entered its sixth consecutive day.

The government has insisted that it would not negotiate with strikers until they resume work, an attitude that it emphasised at its weekly session on Sunday.

Six MPs have reportedly met the prime minister to seek a solution to the crisis and reports emerged that he will receive representatives of the workers on strike late afternoon.

MP Mohammad Al Dallal urged the finance committee within the parliament to submit proposals that address the crisis of salaries and benefits and present them at a special meeting on Thursday.

On Sunday evening, the cabinet rejected the demands put forth by the workers at the Kuwait Airways Corporation and the Customs Department, announcing that it would not “condone any action that can be detrimental to the interests of the State and its citizens.”

Under the Kuwait law and constitution, strikes are not considered as sanctioned means of expressing opinions and all government institutions must take the necessary measures to ensure a smooth workflow and avert any potential harm, the cabinet said.

In the cabinet statement, published in the Kuwaiti media, divergent views and differences on wage increases cannot be addressed through imposing a status quo and strike threats.

In its stand against the strikers, the cabinet received a tremendous boost from the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry after it warned in a statement of the dire repercussions for all segments of society if the strikes continued. The chamber insisted that strikes weaken social and food security and punish all consumers, Al Watan daily reported.

MP Adnan Abdul Samad, the Chairman of the Parliament’s Budget Committee, said that the committee had discussed the general framework of the state budget for the fiscal year 2012 – 2013 and that the new budget was estimated at about 22 billion Kuwaiti Dinars, an increase of around KD2.5 billion or 13 per cent compared with the current budget.

The lawmaker said that revenues for the new budget were around KD14 billion, an increase of KD487 million in comparison with last year’s, and that oil revenues were estimated at KD12.8 billion, an increase of KD461 million, or 3.7 per cent, based on an estimated $65 per barrel.

About KD4.7 billion have been earmarked for salaries, an increase of 7.1 per cent. The increase means that wages will constitute 30 per cent of the budget and 42 per cent of the oil revenues, he said.

Around KD4.2 billion have been set aside for amenities and services, whereas KD475 million will be allocated to transport and equipment. Around KD3 billion have been earmarked for construction projects, maintenance and general consumption, while KD9.5 billion have been set aside for different expenses and transformative payables.

According to Al Watan, MPs from the majority, have agreed to appeal to Prime Minister Shaikh Jaber Al Mubarak Al Sabah to relieve Mustafa Al Shamali, the Finance Minister, of his position.

The MPs said, at their meeting, that they would grill him if the government kept him.

Sources told the daily that the 26 MPs decided that any grilling motion would be shown to other blocs to build a consensus around it.

MP Osama Al Menawer, the official spokesperson for the MPs forming the majority in the parliament elected on February 2, said that they would file a request for a special session to be held Thursday to debate demands for pay increments follwoing the Cabinet’s decision to endorse the Civil Service Commission’s report without changes.

He added that the group was monitoring the strikes in Kuwait, blaming it on flawed policies that created discrepancies amongst citizens of similar specializations and qualifications.

According to the lawmaker, the strikes were a result of the failure to keep promises to syndicates, particularly Kuwait Airways and Customs Department.

Kuwaiti political analyst Abdullah Al Shayji said that the strikes “have become a drain on all Kuwaitis.”

“The labour unions were promised salary hikes, like what employees got in the oil sector,” he said. “However, the situation has escalated and gone over board with the customs union halting imports and Kuwait Airways grounding flights. Yet, the government seemed to be unfettered and did not blink in this drama,” he said.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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