Brazil oil workers strike over pay
Tens of thousands at state oil firm Petrobras also protest over safety conditions.
Last Modified: 24 Mar 2009 02:24 GMT
At least 50,000 of Petrobras' 74,000 production workers halted work on Monday [EPA]

Tens of thousands of Brazilian oil workers have begun a five-day strike to protest against pay cuts and working conditions.

At least 50,000 of 74,000 production workers at Petrobras, the state-run oil firm, halted work at refineries, oil wells and platforms on Monday, said the National Oil Workers Federation.

However, Petrobras' press office said overall production across the country was normal after contingency plans were set in motion when the strike began.

Ferreira Dantas, a spokesman for the workers federation, said employees halted production at the Reman refinery in the Amazon jungle city of Manaus.

The strike also stopped the production of at least 70 per cent of the oil and gas from the more than 20 offshore rigs and onshore wells in the northeastern state of Rio Grande do Norte, Dantas said.

Union officials say 165 employees have been killed in the last seven years in accidents.

Petrobras' net income rose 58 per cent to 33.9bn reals ($14.2bn) last year amid an output increase of 4.3 per cent as global oil prices soared to more than $147 a barrel in July before falling to $54 on Monday.

Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman said the firm's ambitious plans for expansion were being hit by the global economic downturn just as workers were demanding a bigger share of profits.

The firm is third largest oil producer in the Americas and one of the 20 largest in the world.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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