Settlement reached in Brazil oil worker strike

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s FUP oil workers federation said on Friday that it was ending a five-day-old strike after reaching agreement with state-controlled Petrobras.

While the accord must still be approved by the rank and file, FUP leaders said they were confident their members would accept the company’s proposal.

The strike, which began at midnight Sunday, centered on issues of profit-sharing, worker safety and job security.

The FUP accused Petrobras of slashing workers’ share of dividends paid out to shareholders by 1.34 percent relative to 2007, even though the firm earned a record profit of 33.92 billion reais ($15.1 billion) last year.

To end the walkout, Petrobras offered workers a 3.5 percent slice of profits and agreed to provide more safety training to crews at oil rigs and refineries.

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

“The strength of the national strike and the readiness to continue the struggle in the case that Petrobras insisted on the threat to punish (striking) workers caused the company to formalize … a proposal with important advances,” the FUP said in a statement.

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

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.

www.laht.com

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