Strike Halts Kuwait Airways Flights

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Published: March 18, 2012

State carrier Kuwait Airways cancelled nine flights late on Saturday after a walkout by employees calling for higher pay, the company’s managing director said.

The airline workers join around 3,000 striking customs employees at the Gulf state’s ports and borders. The carrier’s 4,000 unionised workers last went on strike in October, also over wage demands.

On Monday Kuwait’s government, under pressure from unions, announced a 25 percent pay increase to state workers. The increase also comes after a snap election last month that saw the Islamist-led opposition take control of parliament.

But some unions say the rise was not enough.

Those calling for industrial action say that wages have not kept up with inflation for the past few years and complain that pay rises at management levels are not matched with similar increases lower down in company ranks.

Policymakers have promised to head off inflation in the prices of basic goods after Monday’s announced pay increase.

The upward pressure on wages in Kuwait, partly due to increased union activity since last year’s Arab Spring uprisings 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”.

Kuwait’s central bank governor Sheikh Salem Abdul-Aziz al-Sabah resigned in February after 25 years in the post, complaining about the rapid rise in government spending.

However, state finances appear able to cope with the latest public sector wage hike, at least for now, thanks to high global oil prices.

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