Some Petrobras Operations Halted by Staggered Work Stoppages

Work at several refineries, export terminals and production facilities of the Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras was halted Wednesday by workers demanding higher wages, union officials said.

"Stoppages are scheduled until Friday. We are still awaiting a proposal from Petrobras," a spokesperson for the FUP union said, referring to a plan to stagger a series of 24-hour protests across the country.

Facilities affected by Wednesday's stoppages include a fertilizer plant in the eastern state of Bahia, a port terminal and production facilities in the northeastern state of Rio Grande do Norte and a terminal in the northern city of Belem.

Operations at Rio de Janeiro's Reduc refinery, the largest in the state, had been suspended indefinitely since Monday, as local union officials found the FUP plan too timid, but they subsequently agreed to the schedule of staggered stoppages and resumed work.

FUP officials have threatened to make the strike continuous if an agreement is not reached with Petrobras by Friday.

According to Petrobras, the stoppages have not affected key production centers and a solution to the problem will likely be reached this week.

The unions are demanding a 13.21 percent raise, far more than the 7.81 percent hikes initially offered by Petrobras.

Given existing global market conditions, some industry analysts say a major strike at Petrobras could put added pressure on international oil prices.

Though Brazil does not export significant amounts of oil, Latin America's largest country is a major energy consumer and a strike could force it to boost imports of both refined products and crude.