Oil Workers in Brazil Planning One Day Strike

Petrobras oil workers are planning a 24-hour strike Thursday, to protest against the smaller share of profits they are getting from Brazil's state-owned oil company, the Unique Federation of Oil Workers (FUP) said on Wednesday. "Despite continuing to register record profits, Petrobras wants to pay us less this year than they paid last year of the payments to shareholders," FUP coordinator, Mauricio Franca Rubem, said in a statement.

The nationwide strike would affect approximately 34,000 workers in the sector and lower output in the Campos Basin, the country's main oil field, off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, which is responsible for 80 percent of Brazil's production. "We should lower production from 1 million barrels a day to 600,000 tomorrow," said Rubem, recalling that the last strike in October 2001 reduced output to that level. But Rubem said the strike would not jeopardize national supply.

In a 2001 profit sharing program, Petrobras paid its workers 11 percent of the 2.5 billion reais ($1.1 billion) in dividends it disbursed to shareholders that year. But this year, the company was only planning to pay out to workers 7 percent of the 3.5 billion reais in dividends due to be disbursed to shareholders May 3. "The company alleges this year there was an adjustment and the shareholders would receive more, but this is no justification to reduce our (share of the profit)," said Rubem. He added that, if the 24-hour strike did not have the desired effect, the workers could vote for a longer strike.

No spokesperson for Petrobras was available for comment due to the May 1 Labor Day holiday in Brazil.