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Brazil’s Oil Sector Joins Nationwide Strike Against Pension Reform

Workers at Brazilian state-held oil firm Petrobras joined on Friday a 24-hour nationwide strike in Brazil against proposed pension reforms that would raise the minimum retirement age and workers’ contributions, the United Federation of Oil Workers, FUP, said today.

Petrobras workers are staging strikes at nine refineries across eight states in Brazil as well as the port terminal in Pernambuco, the umbrella trade union organization said.  

Thousands of Brazilians are on strike today to protest the plans for a significant increase in retirement age, while various industry and services sectors are also using the nationwide strike to express grievances from their specific sector. For the oil workers, this is the privatization of assets of the state oil firm Petrobras, which the government and the company’s new management have been speeding up in recent months.

Workers in the union protest not only against the pension reform proposals, but also against the privatization of Petrobras assets, FUP says.

At the beginning of this year, reports emerged that Brazil was pushing for major state-owned companies, including Petrobras, to privatize some subsidiaries as the Brazilian government of new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro looks to raise US$20 billion in state asset sales in 2019.

“The privatization of the company is not in question. I do not have a mandate to think about it,” Petrobras’ new chief executive Roberto Castello Branco—who was tapped by Bolsonaro to lead the company—said in November.

Yet, the sale of non-core assets was expected to continue under Castello Branco, whose strategic vision for Petrobras includes “portfolio management, capital cost reduction, and relentless pursuit of cost reduction.”

In late April, Petrobras approved the sale of several refineries as part of its divestment plan, and earlier this week, it struck a deal with the Brazilian antitrust regulator that will allow it to sell those downstream assets in a bid, the company said, to encourage greater competition in the industry.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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