Kuwait oil unions end 3-day strike over government cutbacks

Hussain Al-Qatari, Associated Press

Oil unions in Kuwait ended a three-day strike over government cutbacks, authorities said Wednesday, though it remained unclear what concessions may have been granted to the workers amid low global crude prices.

Suhail Mohamed al-Mazrouei, the United Arab Emirates' energy minister, center left, walks out of a oil production meeting with Anas al-Saleh, Kuwait's finance minister and acting oil minister, center right, in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday, April 17, 2016. Oil-producing countries are meeting in Qatar to discuss a possible freeze of production to counter low global prices, but Iran's last-minute decision to stay home could dilute the impact of any agreement. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Oil unions in Kuwait ended a three-day strike over government cutbacks, authorities said Wednesday, though it remained unclear what concessions may have been granted to the workers amid low global crude prices.

The state-run Kuwait News Agency reported that the unions ended the strike by praising the country's ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, and saying their action showed their "ability to affect the production process."

The unions "entrusted his highness, the emir, (with) the protection of rights of the employees in the oil sector," the unions said, according to KUNA. It said workers wouldn't be disciplined for taking part in the strike.

Adel al-Fadhel, a spokesman for the Kuwait Oil Company Workers' Union, confirmed workers would go back to work Wednesday. He said Sheikh Sabah spoke to the head of one of the unions Tuesday by telephone to assure his support for the workers.

"We're glad to announce that the strike has succeeded in preserving the rights of the workers in the oil sector," al-Fadhel told The Associated Press. "His highness, the emir, intervened and guaranteed to preserve the rights of the workers according to the law."

Al-Fadhel did not elaborate. The emir's court later denied Kuwait's ruler spoke to any union official regarding the strike. Al-Fadhel declined to immediate comment on the denial.

Workers began the strike Sunday over cuts in their pay and benefits packages after failing to reach an agreement with the Oil Ministry.

Kuwait, an OPEC member, on average pumps 3 million barrels of oil a day. It may take Kuwait as many as three days to regain that production, government oil spokesman Sheikh Talal al-Khaled Al Sabah said in a KUNA report, an acknowledgment that the strike did affect output.

The strike slightly cut into the oil glut now facing the global market, lessening the impact of oil producers failing to reach a freeze agreement this weekend during a meeting in Doha, Qatar. With production now likely to rise with the workers returning to the fields, benchmark U.S. crude fell 95 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $41.53 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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