It would be the first strike to affect Petrobras under the new center-left government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, himself a former union leader.
Pires said the company was generally more prone to dialogue under the new management and was more transparent when dealing with the unions. But he complained that it was still more interested in pleasing stockholders than its workers. "We expect the negotiations to be easier now than under the previous government, but the management policy is oriented more at shareholders. It is pretty much as it used to be," he said.
The unions want Petrobras to raise workers' salaries by 15.5 percent to account for inflation between September 2002 and August 2003, as well as by another 6.8 percent, which they say is the share of increased output for last year that workers should be entitled to.
Facing similar strike threats last year, Petrobras satisfied some of the workers' demands, including an inflation adjustment. But inflation has since sky-rocketed in Brazil.
In May 2002, Petrobras oil workers staged a one-day warning stoppage. The previous nationwide strike in October 2001 lasted five days and battered the economy.
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