Hundreds of Kuwait Airways Corp. staff began an indefinite strike Monday to demand a pay increase for national workers, disrupting flights of the flag carrier, head of the trade union said.
"We have started an open strike from today. It will continue until the government meets our legitimate demands of raising our wages," Abdullah al-Hajeri told AFP.
State-owned Kuwait Airways immediately cancelled three fights bound for Dubai, Doha and Jeddah and more flights were likely to be cancelled. All KAC scheduled flights have arrived so far.
Hajeri said that the union had called off a strike that was due to start earlier this month after the government promised to "meet most of the demands immediately, but nothing happened."
The government had agreed to increase the basic salary of all Kuwaiti employees by 30 percent but failed to deliver, said Hajeri, adding that the union has about 4,000 members, all nationals.
The government fears that if the strike continues, it will disrupt flights for thousands of Kuwaiti pilgrims who are due to travel to Saudi Arabia next week for the Muslim annual pilgrimage.
The oil-rich Gulf state of Kuwait has been hit by a wave of industrial action amid a major political showdown between the opposition and government in the wake of an alleged corruption scandal involving several MPs and possibly state officials.
Two weeks ago, more than 3,000 customs employees stopped work for two days demanding a pay raise and called off the strike after government promises to meet their demands.
Kuwait's public sector employs close to 80 percent of the 360,000-strong workforce of Kuwaiti nationals.
The country has about 1.7 million foreign workers, mostly employed by the private sector.
The Gulf state, with 1.2 million Kuwaiti citizens, is tax-free and offers a cradle-to-grave welfare system with public services and fuel offered either free or at heavily subsidised prices.