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"Petrobras: Be accountable, continue as ours", demands union movement

5 March, 2015IndustriALL Global Union joins and supports its Brazilian affiliates in their current struggle to keep oil giant Petrobras accountable in public hands. Amid deep scandal and crisis, the unions say: charge those guilty of corruption, but Petrobras is ours.

As the country’s largest company, Petrobras’ problems have severe knock-on effects. But private and foreign capital, with the support of right-wing politicians, is attempting to use the company's current turmoil to their advantage and facilitate Petrobras’ sell-off at a very low share price. Petrobras is 64 per cent owned by the Brazilian state and has long been and is still one of the major pillars of the Brazilian economy.

The Oil Workers Federation, FUP-CUT and its umbrella organization CNQ-CUT, together with CNM-CUT, have led strong demonstrations under the banner “Petrobras É Nossa”. At a 24 February rally in Rio de Janeiro, IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina stated:

Our Global Framework Agreement partner Petrobras belongs to the Brazilian people and workers. That makes misuse of the company’s finances even more disgraceful. However, to sell off this great asset for a cut price at this time of crisis would add insult to injury, and cannot be allowed.

Unions and social movements will mobilize a national day of action on 13 March in defence of Petrobras. However Business-oriented press in Brazil is strongly criticizing the government and voicing demands towards privatization. Furthermore, credit ratings agency Moody’s has downgraded Petrobras stocks to junk status.

Lucineide Varjão Soares, President of CNQ-CUT said in her statement:

We fought this same campaign in 1948: The oil is ours! We won then and stopped the transfer of this asset to foreign capital. Petrobras is under attack. Corruption cannot serve as a front for dismantling an entire oil and gas production chain built by workers. We will vigorously defend our national treasure and our jobs.

The scandal came to light when a prior director of Petrobras admitted to a vast kickback and bribery scheme as part of his own plea bargain after his arrest in March 2014 for money laundering. Petrobras executives are accused of illegally conspiring with a cartel of Brazil’s largest construction companies over ten years.

Brazil’s Prosecutor General yesterday sought permission from the Supreme Court to launch enquiries into 54 unnamed people, most of whom are Members of Congress.