(Adds comment from a Petrobras union)
By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 2 Brazil's Petrobras said
on Friday that more than one in five of its direct employees
agreed to leave the financially troubled state-led oil company
in a buyout program that is expected to save 33 billion reais
($10.2 billion) by 2020.
Under the plan, 11,704 employees, or 21 percent of
Petrobras' 54,951 direct workforce as of July, signed up to quit
their jobs or retire early, Petroleo Brasileiro SA,
as Petrobras is formally known, said in a statement.
The total number of employees signed up since April is 97
percent of a job reduction plan that budgeted 4.4 billion reais
for the voluntary dismissal of up to 12,000 employees, or an
average of 367,000 reais ($113,168) per employee.
Petrobras faces rising payments on its nearly $125 billion
of debt, the largest in the global oil industry, as well as
massive new costs to develop giant offshore oil prospects off
the coast of Brazil south of Rio de Janeiro.
It has also been battered by a sprawling corruption scandal
and a plunge in world oil prices.
FUP, one of the largest unions representing Petrobras
employees, said the job cuts put the remaining employees and
Brazil's environment at risk. The risk is especially high in
light of 8,000 layoffs in the last three years have cut the
company workforce by a quarter and left key positions unfilled,
the union said in a statement.
"The result of this disastrous management model will be more
accidents, putting society on the verge of a great but expected
tragedy," the statement said.
Petrobras said it has a program to identify employee skills
and is conducting the layoffs in a way that will allow it to
replace critical people who are leaving with qualified
The number of employees agreeing to the buyout program could
rise as the deadline for postmarking written requests was Aug.
31, Petrobras said. Most of Petrobras' direct core employees got
their jobs through competitive examinations and have a range of
civil service-style rights making them hard to fire.
While Petrobras is controlled by the government, most of its
stock is held by non-government investors.
As of June 30, Petrobras had provisioned 1.2 billion reais
for the dismissal program, based on the 4,087 employees who had
already agreed to take the buyout. Layoffs under the plan began
on June 16 and 2,450 employees have already left their jobs.
($1 = 3.24 Brazilian reais)
(Reporting by Jeb Blount; Editing by Leslie Adler and Alistair