Petrobras Approves Wage Increase for Workers

Petrobras has worked out an agreement with oil workers' unions to increase employee wages by 7.4 percent, ending a dispute that nearly caused a strike in June. Petrobras also agreed to pay school subsidies to employees' children and create safety commissions with the participation of oil workers at offshore oil rigs in the Campos Basin.

Thirteen out of 17 unions had signed the agreement, and expected four remaining groups to accept the terms soon so their members' salaries can also be raised.

The agreement represents a partial defeat for oil workers who had demanded a bigger part of Petrobras' hefty profits and more compensation for inflation in the past few years. William Corbo, a director of the Oil Workers' Federation (FUP) umbrella union for the industry said the 7.4 percent salary adjustment, valid retroactively from September, corresponded to inflation between September 2001 and August 2002. "But salaries remain unadjusted for many previous years," he said. He said discussions with company management in the nearest future would focus on differences in payment for newly hired and old workers and the elimination of bonuses to favor all workers equally.

In May of this year, Petrobras oil workers staged a one-day warning stoppage. The previous nationwide strike in October 2001 lasted five days and battered the economy, forcing Brazil to import more oil and reducing the country's trade surplus. Petrobras workers maintain that their share of profits from Petrobras is too low, especially since the company has posted higher earnings in each of the past few years and raised pay for managers and directors.