23 June, 201614 June was a day of struggle for Brazil’s oil industry workers defending the state oil company Petrobras and the Pre-Salt oilfields. Workers have called on the general public to unite to resist and win the battle.
The demonstration against the privatization of the biggest oil company in Latin America took place on 14 June in front of the National Congress and Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia. Protestors stood up against the interim foreign affairs minister, José Serra, promoter of congressional bill PL 4567/16, which proposes removing Petrobras’ exclusive rights over exploitation of the Pre-Salt oilfields. The Oil Workers Federation (FUP), affiliated to CNQ-CUT and IndustriALL Global Union, helped to organize the initiative, and a range of social movements supported the action.
Petrobras is mired in corruption scandals and crisis and stands at a crossroads, which is why the government is trying to sell its shares in the company at a knock-down price. Recently, the new Petrobras chief executive officer, Pedro Parente, assured the Wall Street Journal that he aims to return the company to “greatness” and that his strategy is “selling non-core assets and cutting costs to reduce the oil industry’s biggest debt load”. He also alluded to possible changes in the company and did not discount another round of dismissals.
The FUP/CUT is opposed to this strategy as it would mean the loss of jobs and national sovereignty over the energy sector. At the demonstration and rally held on the day of action, FUP coordinator, José María, said that it is the responsibility of the entire Brazilian public to defend Petrobras and the Pre-Salt oilfields:
"Our resistance must be greater with every day that passes. Oil industry workers have the duty to be the spearhead and make a difference, but we must be clear that we will not win this battle if we act alone,” he said.
IndustriALL has issued several statements calling for Petrobras to remain in public ownership in order to guarantee energy sovereignty, economic development and social progress.
Fernando Lopes, IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary said:
“IndustriALL has signed a global framework fgreement with Petrobras. We believe that keeping Petrobras in the public sector is crucial for development, not only of Brazil, but also to maintain the balance of power with the sector’s major private multinationals. IndustriALL Global Union will always support the fight against the privatization of strategic state companies.”