Some 4,500 oil workers at Brazil’s state-owned Petrobras defied a court injunction to start a five-day strike on Monday over pay and conditions.
The strikers work on offshore rigs in the highly profitable Campos Basin oil fields – which account for about 80 percent of Brazil’s daily output of 1.8 million barrels of crude oil.
The oil workers’ union is demanding that workers get paid for an extra day at the end of their 14 day shift.
Workers have to carry out a number of tasks on that day until they are relieved by new workers and many also have to travel several thousand kilometres to get home between shifts.
Petrobras has seen its profits double since 2002. It won a last minute injunction from Brazil’s labour court – but the union says the strike will continue.
The court also threatened to fine the union over £15,000 for every day it strikes.
The workers have immense power to stop oil production and this has a huge impact at a time of rising oil prices and speculation over global supplies.
When workers struck for five days in 2001 they caused a major slump in Brazil’s oil production, forcing the government to import oil to make up supplies.