By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Twelve oil work unions which are part of the Oil Workers Federation (FUP) in Brazil began on November 1st, a strike at Petrobras refineries all over the country. According to union officials, strikers are protesting against Petrobras’ asset sales, investment cuts, project suspensions, and reduction of some workers’ rights.

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Strikers outside Abreu and Lima refinery in the state of Pernambuco, photo courtesy of FUP.

“The strike was agreed on more than 45 days ago. We did try negotiating with Petrobras and the majority shareholder, i.e. the federal government, before stopping work, but our demands were not met,” said Simão Zanardi Filho, of the Union of Oil Workers of Duque de Caxias, Rio de Janeiro state, and FUP director in an interview to Agencia Brasil.

In a statement Brazil’s oil giant says the company is willing to sit down at the negotiations table and discuss pay raises with union leaders. According to company officials Petrobras has offered an 8.11 percent pay raise, while workers want 18 percent.

In addition to the pay increase, unions are against the sale of assets and the reduction in investments announced by the company. According to the Federation of Oil Workers ‘cuts in investments, sales of assets, interruption of construction and halt in projects impact the country’s development and national sovereignty’.

Last month Petrobras’ Council approved the sale of 49 percent of the stocks of subsidiary Gaspetro to Mitsui Gas and Energy Brasil for R$1.9 billion. The sale is part of Petrobras’ corporate plan, announced in the first semester of this year, to improve the company’s financial situation. In August the state-owned oil company authorized the sale of 25 percent of stock from another subsidiary, BR Distribuidora.

In addition to the sale of some of its assets, Petrobras also announced this year it was reducing investments from US$37.1 billion in 2014 to US$25 billion in 2015.

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