Military personnel may be used to forcibly disembark striking Brazilian seafarers from vessels operated by Transpetro, a subsidiary of Brazil’s state-owned petroleum corporation, Petrobras, according to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
Furthermore, masters have been ordered to deny union leaders access to vessels to visit striking seafarers, the union said citing information from the company representatives.
On 4 May 2016, Brazilian seafarers’ unions affiliated to the huge CONTTMAF (Confederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores em Transportes Aquaviários e Aéreos, na Pesca e nos Portos) federation voted to take industrial action.
The action that will impact both tankers and offshore vessels 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 strike was launched on May 14th, however Transpetro asked for an injunction on the strike from the Superior Labor Tribunal asking for the strike to be declared illegal, which the court denied.
Namely, the court said that the workers had a legitimate right to strike and that the company should respect that. The judge called both parties to a conciliatory hearing on 17 May.
The ITF called for immediate intervention to defend the rights of Brazilian workers amid Petrobras’ steps “to intimidate and threaten seafarers who are due to strike tomorrow (May 14th).”
“The Federation has condemned the company’s actions in response to legitimate, legal strike action as a breach of Brazilian law and a violation of the ILO’s principle of freedom of association,” the ITF said.
The ITF has written to Guy Ryder, the Director General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), calling for urgent intervention with the government of Brazil.
“I have been a trade union activist for 30 years and I have never witnessed such aggressive and illegal threats to workers’ rights. This violates both our laws and international law,” Severino Almeida, president of CONTTMAF and the SINDMAR maritime officers’ union, said.
Paddy Crumlin, president of the ITF, added that it was negligent in the extreme that Petrobras should try and use the political situation in Brazil to attack workers’ rights.
“The seafarers are asking for proper recognition of wealth and guarantees against economic distortion coming from possible privatisation. We want a fair deal. It falls to all of us who have the means to intervene and stop this kind of threat for the good of all Brazilian workers, for Brazil’s national interest and economic security,” he added.
In addition, ITF seafarers’ section chair Dave Heindel called on the ILO to step in immediately before “something even more serious happens and labour rights in Brazil are grievously violated.”