Brazilian seafarers’ unions affiliated to the Confederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores em Transportes Aquaviários e Aéreos, na Pesca e nos Portos (CONTTMAF) union federation have voted to take industrial action this Saturday, 14 May on all vessels owned and operated by Transpetro, an oil and gas transportation subsidiary of Petrobras.
The action that will impact both tankers and offshore comes amid a dispute over what the unions have described as “discriminatory practices that potentially undermine the national flag identity of its offshore and cabotage fleet.”
The vote for escalating industrial action took place on 4 May and was held on all vessels. According to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) the support for the action was overwhelming, and the company was notified on 6 May.
“The problems behind the decision are not new, and were included in collective bargaining agreement negotiations that began last year. They include the ending of discriminatory practices in Petrobras, and increasing health and safety mechanisms in order to set up a level playing field with other companies hired by it and its subsidiary companies,” the ITF said.
“Employment stability is already included in collective agreements signed between Petrobras and other unions. The system of working one period on board and the same period of shore leave (the ‘1 x 1’ system) is already current practice in all other private shipping companies operating in the Brazilian offshore industry hired by Petrobras and its subsidiary companies.
“This system is there to prevent accidents caused by fatigue. The fact that all other private companies operating in the Brazilian offshore and cabotage sectors, apart from Petrobras subsidiaries, offer it not only creates unfair competition but increases risk,” Severino Almeida, president of CONTTMAF and the SINDMAR maritime officers’ union, explained.
ITF president Paddy Crumlin voiced support to the Brazilian colleagues, adding that there’s no shortage of corporations in many countries that “try to use discriminatory practices which are potentially in breach of the basic principles of trade union rights laid down by the ILO and the UN Global Compact.”
“We hope that this uncooperative attitude by Transpetro is not an indicator of any attempt to privatise the company in order to hand it over to foreign flag vessels. That would be a matter of national shame for Brazil, and a massive loss to its economy and skills base,” he added.
“We are ready to implement our industrial action and to maintain it as long as necessary, until Petrobras understands the need for honest and proper negotiation and to end its discriminatory practices,” Almeida concluded.