By Jewellord T. Nem Singh, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Petrobras President José Sérgio Gabrielli admitted this week that there are problems with his company’s platform in the P-33 drilling block which could endanger workers’ safety and operational security. Throughout the week news wires have reported that the platforms are susceptible to corrosion and serious maintenance problems persist in the area, with photos of rusted metalwork gaining prominence in light of the Deepwater Horizon explosion earlier this year.
“They (the platforms) were in disrepair, they had problems, perhaps they needed some maintenance. I admit we have some maintenance problems, but we never put our workers or our systems at risk”, Gabrielli told the press on Monday.
In response, the ANP interrupted rig operations last week for safety reasons. Petrobras has been firm in its position that it is improving the working conditions in the aforementioned platforms as per ANP regulations, and that October was already due to see routine maintenance checks across the rigs, so the news has merely brought the ‘Operação Padrão’ forward a matter of weeks.
Although the management is assuring workers of their safety, the Confederation of Petroleum Workers of Northern Fluminense (Sindipetro NF) union called upon its workers in 45 platforms of the Campos Basin to join their call for better security in the workplace through a 24-hour work stoppage. The mobilization also marks the anniversary of the oil accident in Enchova, which led to the deaths of 37 Brazilian oil workers in 1984.
The union argues that the labor agency in charge of the workers’ risk and safety precautions, Superintendência Regional do Trabalho e Emprego, has already conducted a safety investigation on the P-33 platforms and reported problems with pipelines and rusty valves.
Harsh working conditions and high levels of risk are characteristic of extractive industries, and the unions therefore play a leading role in negotiating not just for better pay, but also working conditions.
A demonstration by workers on ten platforms in the Campos Basin began this week in response to the latest news. “Operação Chega de Contar com a Sorte” will see workers themselves encoraged to perform evaluations of the risks involved in the everyday carrying out of their work. The unions have advised them that if they witness anything that puts their safety in jeopardy that they should stop work, and Gabrielli himself has declared his support for the action.