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Government worker strike enters 5th week, longest industrial dispute in Kuwaiti history

Social security administration, public schools food service and oil workers demand better working conditions and fair pay in Kuwait
A previous strike by airline staff grounded Kuwait Airways flights for nearly a week (AFP)

Kuwait is in the middle of its longest-ever industrial dispute, with questions raised in parliament over an ongoing strike by workers at the Public Institution for Social Security.

The government employees are now in the fifth week of a strike, protesting the Finance Minister’s failure to deliver on salary benefits agreed upon between the workforce and the management, reports Kuwaiti daily al-Watan.

Hamdan al-Azami, an outspoken MP, criticised the government for ignoring the strike, speaking to parliament on Tuesday.  

Attempts at mediation failed on Wednesday, after MPs who met with strikers did not offer the financial benefits that workers have demanded before any potential return to work, reports the Kuwait Times.

Meanwhile Anas al-Saleh, Kuwait’s Finance Minister who is blamed by many of the strikers for the current crisis, has refused to meet with union members until the stoppage is brought to an end.

The general director of the Public Institution for Social Security publicly criticised the strikers, asking that they have “more flexibility” in their demands.

In his comments to parliament, the MP Azami warned that the strike could lead to further public sector protests. He mentioned that there are other bodies whose demands are not being met by the government either.

The office of the undersecretary for education was stormed this week by 60 employees, furious over the sacking of nearly 800 women, all of whom lost their jobs when the ministry ended its contract with a supplier of school meals.

The workers are demanding that the ministry transfer their contracts to the businesses that will be supplying school meals in the next year.

The head of the Union for Petrol and Petrochemicals Workers called on 26 June for a strike by oil workers.

Abdel Aziz al-Sherthan, head of the association, called for meetings to discuss a total strike by workers at the state-owned Kuwait Gulf Oil Company, complaining that the union had been effectively dissolved. He also called for the appointment of a new administration for Kuwait’s Ministry of Social and Employment Affairs.