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Brazil oil workers plan strike in new blow to government, economy

Brazil oil workers plan strike in new blow to government, economy
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SAOPAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian oil workers planned a 72-hour strike starting on Wednesday, despite a court order, in a new blow to President Michel Temer and an economy reeling from a truckers’ protest that has strangled Latin America’s largest economy for over a week.

The planned oil strike was declared illegal by Brazil’s top labour court on Tuesday. The FUP, Brazil’s largest oil workers union, said it had not been informed of the ruling and planned to go ahead with the stoppage.

State-led oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA <PETR4.SA> said any such disruption would not have an immediate major impact on its production or overall operations.

But the planned strike raised the spectre of stoppages and protests spreading to other sectors as Brazilians vent frustrations with a deeply unpopular government and a still-sputtering economy.

Petrobras, as the oil company is known, along with the federal government’s solicitor general’s office on Tuesday, had asked the country’s top labour court to rule that any oil strike would be illegal, arguing it was being carried out mainly for political and not labour-related reasons.

Unions representing oil workers said they were demanding the resignation of Chief Executive Pedro Parente. They also want the reversal of market-based changes to pricing and other policies Petrobras has taken since Temer took power in 2016.

FUP union leader José Maria Rangel said on Tuesday the Temer government and Parente’s policies were delivering Petrobras up to foreign investors, while “the shipyards of Rio de Janeiro are closed” amid a jobless rate that remains near all-time highs.

Parente, on a Tuesday conference call with analysts, said Petrobras was taking action so that any strike would have minimal or no impact on production and operations.

The 10-day trucker demonstration against diesel price hikes has emptied roads and left major cities running short on food, gasoline and medical supplies, despite significantly easing on Tuesday night. Officials warned it would take days to restore supply lines disrupted by the crippling stoppage that at its height saw over 1,000 roadblocks on key highways across the country.

Temer’s political situation has grown so tenuous as Brazil barrels toward a general election in October that he was forced to bat away concerns that a coup could topple his government.

“There is zero chance of military intervention,” Temer told a small group of journalists during a roundtable at an investment conference in Sao Paulo. “What I see is a rejection both in the Ministry of Defense and throughout the military forces to any kind of military intervention.”

(Reporting by Brad Brooks; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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