Petrobras strike shows strong opposition to "privatization" -unions
By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO Nov 5 (Reuters) - Brazilian union leaders say stronger than expected support for a strike at Petrobras is due to growing worker opposition to a creeping privatization of the state oil company.
The strike, which began on Sunday, has become the biggest stoppage in two decades at Petrobras and shows workers back union efforts to renationalize the company and cut foreign participation in the oil industry, union leaders say.
The industrial action follows a shift in union tactics to focus on nationalist and anti-capitalist demands rather than wages.
"Frankly we were surprised by the level of support," said Marcos Breda, communications manager for Sindipetro Norte-Fluminense, a FUP union that represents oil platform workers in the Campos Basin, Brazil's most productive oil region.
"This is very similar to 1995. We're defending the same things, protesting privatization of the company, the need to protect Brazil's sovereignty, the need to maintain investment in Brazil," he said.
Since Brazil's biggest oil-union federation FUP took to the picket lines on Sunday afternoon, the walkout has cut output by as much as 273,000 barrels a day (b/d). That is as much as 13 percent of the 2.1 million b/d Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as Petrobras is formally known, was producing before the strike.
On Thursday, Petrobras said management contingency plans had reduced the cut in output to about 100,000 b/d from 140,00 b/d on Wednesday. Unions say Petrobras is under estimating the drop in output since the strike began.
Those cuts, plus delays at fuel terminals, the closing of a fertilizer plant and reported fuel shortages in remote areas of Bahia state have combined to make this the biggest strike against Petrobras since a 32-day walkout in 1995. Continuación...