Petrobras preparing offers for striking oil workers



State-controlled Petrobras said Tuesday that it is prepared to offer Brazil’s striking oil workers a bigger share of the company’s healthy profits. 

“We are open to dialogue with the unions,” Petrobras CEO Jose Sergio Gabrielli said during an appearance before the Economic Affairs Committee of the Brazilian Senate. 

The company, he said, is willing to “discuss the redistribution and the volume (of profit-sharing), but only to the degree that it is something reasonable.”

Noting that he was due to meet with union leaders later on Tuesday, the executive told senators Petrobras set aside around 1.3 billion reais ($572.7 million) from last year’s profits to be distributed among the firm’s employees. 

He said that sum represented roughly 4.5 percent of Petrobras’ record 2008 profit of 33.92 billion reais ($15.1 billion). 

The FUP oil workers’ federation, which called the five-day strike that began Monday, says Petrobras slashed workers’ share of dividends paid out to shareholders by 1.34 percent relative to 2007. 

While union officials say that some 30,000 Petrobras employees, or nearly 70 percent of the company’s workforce, have joined the strike, Gabrielli said that neither production nor operational safety had been affected by the walkout. 

FUP leaders said they are prepared to extend the strike beyond Friday if a settlement is not reached by then. 

Besides a larger percentage of the company’s profits, oil workers are demanding better holiday pay, the maintenance of outsourced jobs and improved safety conditions. 

Since 2000, a total of 165 workers – all but 31 of them contractors – have died in accidents at Petrobras facilities. 

A strike last July affecting only the offshore Campos Basin caused Petrobras’ production to drop by roughly 300,000 barrels per day for the duration of the five-day work stoppage. 

The strikers managed to completely shut down 33 of the 42 offshore platforms that Petrobras operates in the country’s largest oil region, which accounts for 80 percent of total oil and natural gas output. 

Despite the global economic crisis, Petrobras is pushing ahead with an aggressive $174 billion, five-year investment plan through 2013, up 55 percent over the previous five-year plan ending in 2012. 

Petrobras shares are traded on the Sao Paulo, New York, Madrid and Buenos Aires exchanges, but the Brazilian government maintains control through a golden share.


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