Kuwait to boost oil production despite strike

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Kuwait plans to boost crude oil production back to normal levels, despite an open-ended strike by Kuwaiti oil workers, an official from state refiner Kuwait National Petroleum Co (KNPC) was quoted as saying on Monday.

The Kuwaiti government has said it would take legal action against what it said were instigators of a strike by thousands of workers over planned public sector reforms which labour unions say will affect workers' benefits.

Khaled al-Asousi, KNPC's deputy chief executive for support services, told Al-Arabiya News Channel that output was now 1.1 million barrels per day -- the same as the first day of strike on Sunday -- but would be back at normal levels in coming days.

"We have several alternative plans - today some of the staff returned to their places of work. Partner companies are participating in the increase in production. The situation is reassuring."

Before the strike, Kuwaiti oil production was running at about 2.8 million bpd, Reuters data shows.

"We expect a big increase in crude inventory in the coming days and we have enough stocks for export and we have no fears of a stoppage of any shipment," Asousi said.

He also said: "Supplies of petroleum derivatives for the local market are enough for a whole month."

Asousi earlier said the country's current refinery output was between 510,000 and 520,000 barrels per day -- almost unchanged from Sunday, down from 930,000 bpd before the strike.

Unions have not said how long the walkout will last.

Non-Kuwaiti workers in the industry are not on strike.

Union members contacted by Reuters on Monday said there had been no developments in the strike or talks with the government.

The government, at its weekly meeting, vowed to press ahead with legal action against what it called instigators of a strike it sees as harming the national interest.

Kuwait's acting oil minister Anas al-Saleh on Monday called oil sector workers to return to work, stressing that the reforms would not impact their basic rights, their salaries, gratuity and additional benefits.

Al-Saleh also checked out stocks of petroleum products, which are enough for at least 30 days, he said in a statement on Kuwait state news agency Kuna.

At the workers' union headquarters in Kuwait's Ahmadi city, strikers gathered in tents despite rising temperatures that kept most of the public inside.

Protest banners reading "we will not compromise" and "no to a strategic alternative, the country is not for sale" were hung by workers who vowed to continue pickets, even if they were fewer in number than on Sunday.

"Workers in Kuwait Oil Company are determined ... We are convinced of all that we do, the workers have a legal right to strike," said Eman, an employee in KOC's administrative department.

She said her colleagues who were not participating in the strike were supportive of it but feared the consequences of walking out.

Abu Abdallah, another worker, questioned government threats to take legal action against organisers of the strike.

"I don't believe that Kuwait would do such a thing or turn into a police state," he told Reuters.