By Jack Whibley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Oil workers in the Campos Basin held a 24-hour strike on July 25th to protest against a reduction in overtime compensation by Petrobras. According to the Sindipetro Norte Fluminense Union, ninety percent of the 7,000 workers in the Campos Basin participated in the strike, however, Petrobras officials dispute that it had any impact on production.
According to the Sindipetro Union, which represents offshore workers in the region, workers on forty of the 48 platforms in the Campos Basin joined the strike, that started at around 3AM last Thursday.
Workers are striking over Petrobras‘ decision to stop paid time off equal to 1.5 hours for each hour of overtime worked, the Sindipetro Union said on its website. Workers also receive one and a half pay for the overtime itself.
“The goal is not to stop production, but warn to protest against a measure adopted by Petrobras that hurts workers on the platforms”, said the coordinator of the Oil Workers’ Federation, João Antônio de Moraes.
Production on the platforms was maintained by contingency teams assembled by the state. According to the Sindipetro Union, however, three platforms – P-07, P-15 and P-35 – were forced to stop operations, meaning reduced production of around 50,000 barrels a day. José Maria Rangel, the president of the Sindipetro Union told O Globo, “Surely, if Petrobras does not go back, other movements, even more vigorous than this today, come.”
There is some dispute as to the impact of the strike with the state reporting that it went ahead “without incident.” According to Petrobras, the contingency teams that were mobilized ensured that normal production was achieved.
In contrast to the Union’s claims, Petrobras said only two platforms, the P-07 and P-15, which produce about 10,000 barrels a day, had their production stopped for only a few hours during the day, but were back in operation by noon.
According to Petrobras, only the P-35 platform remained stopped for any longer period of time and this was due to scheduled maintenance. During other strikes of similar duration in the past, Petrobras has managed to maintain production.
A Petrobras spokesperson said, “Petrobras reinforces the importance of the negotiating table as the best means of maintaining open and transparent dialog with the representatives of the employees.”
The Campos Basin is Brazil’s largest oil-producing region. In May of this year, it produced 82 percent of Brazil’s output of 1.99 million barrels of crude oil a day and 37 percent of the 74.9 million cubic meters of natural gas a day. Around ninety percent of that was produced by Petrobras.
Shares of Brazil’s state-controlled oil giant Petrobras fell to a nearly eight-year low early this month amid weak earnings. Petrobras’ shares slipped 6.11 percent on Friday, July 5th, closing at R$13.68. That is the lowest share value for the oil firm’s stock since November 14, 2005 and a far cry from their R$43.66 price in May 2008.
This latest industrial action comes at a time when workers at Eletrobras, the Rio-based utility, who have been on strike since July 15th, have been ordered to return to work by the Superior Labour Tribunal of Brazil. The strike by around 75 percent of Eletrobras’ workforce came in response to a restructuring that includes dismissals and compensation cuts.