Seafarers’ unions affiliated to the confederation CONTTMAF (Confederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores em Transportes Aquaviários e Aéreos, na Pesca e nos Portos) signed a collective agreement with Petrobras subsidiary Transpetro on 16 September, after 94 percent of members approved it. The confederation had already signed an agreement with Petrobras on 7 June.
The dispute was mainly over an employment warranty for Brazilian seafarers. But it also focused on health and safety standards and discriminatory practices against maritime workers that potentially undermined the national flag identity of the company’s offshore and cabotage fleet.
The agreement was reached after interventions by Brazil’s superior labour court and the ITF, after oil carrier Transpetro failed to block legal strike action planned in May.
The court held conciliation hearings after CONTTMAF alerted it to threats to crew and anti-union actions by Transpetro aimed at breaking the strike. The ITF condemned the company’s actions as a breach of Brazilian law and a violation of the ILO’s principle of freedom of association.
When the dispute finally ended, Brazilian seafarers had won everything they had fought for – thanks to their essential identification with their union and support for the collective fight.
Severino Almeida, president of CONTTMAF and the SINDMAR maritime officers’ union, said: “Beyond our fight for jobs and vessels flying the Brazilian flag on cabotage, we fought for respect. In the Brazilian maritime sector our members and our organization never give up! We know what we can do, what we need and how much we are ready to fight for it! We’re grateful to each of our members and to the ITF family in general for your support.”
ITF general secretary Steve Cotton congratulated the unions and seafarers. He said the ITF had been proud to be behind them all the way, and admired their courage in standing up for their rights and refusing to be intimidated by the company’s threats.