(Adds details of strike plan, background of Petrobras wage
offer, previous strike, paragraphs 3-11)
By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 29 Brazil's largest oil
workers' federation said Thursday its members voted
overwhelmingly to reject a contract offer from Petroleo
Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, and were preparing for a
Leaders of the FUP union plan to continue talks with
Petrobras starting at 2 p.m. (1700 GMT) in Rio de Janeiro and
have not yet called on workers to walk off the job.
In recent years, Petrobras has given wage increases well in
excess of inflation, and this year's annual negotiations are
shaping up as a test of mettle for new Chief Executive Officer
Pedro Parente, who has pledged to cut costs.
Petrobras said in a statement that the union's decision has
had no effect on operations Thursday, though the unions said
some workers in Rio de Janeiro-state blocked a heliport used to
access Petrobras' offshore oil fields in the Campos basin.
Petrobras is struggling to maintain minimum investments as
it tries to manage $125 billion in debt, the most in the oil
industry. Last week the company offered a 4.97 percent increase
in salaries, and said it planned to cut overtime payments and
regular work shifts.
Inflation in Brazil reached 8.98 percent in the
12 months ending Aug 31. Parente told Reuters last week that the
company's financial situation would not allow Petrobras to give
wage increases above inflation.
The rejection of the accord brings Petrobras close to its
second major strike in two years, a walkout likely to stir
debate on issues such as asset sales and investment cuts that
are rarely part of annual labor negotiations.
A walkout would not only disrupt company activity, it also
could add to political tensions in Brazil. Petrobras unions
backed former President Dilma Rousseff, who was permanently
removed from office last month in a polarizing impeachment
Rousseff's allies, including many union leaders, question
the legitimacy of her replacement, President Michel Temer, who
Since his appointment four months ago, Parente has ignored
union calls to end the sale of about $35 billion of assets by
the end of 2018 and to restore investment that has been cut by
about two-thirds in the last three years.
The union has instructed workers to "work to rule", or
meticulously follow the letter of their labor contract and
refuse to perform any task not specifically required.
($1 = 3.26 Brazilian reais)
(Reporting by Jeb Blount; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David