By Pedro Fonseca
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian labor unions staged peaceful nationwide demonstrations against scandal-hit President Michel Temer on Friday, seeking to stop his unpopular administration from pushing through Congress changes to labor and pension laws.
Protests were smaller than in a nationwide strike two months ago. Subway and bus services shut down in Brasilia, and small street demonstrations blocking roads snarled drivers in traffic in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
The strike had limited impact at oil refineries but did not effect exploration and production, refining and logistics activities at state-controlled oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA, executives said.
Temer, whose year-long administration has an approval rating in the single digits, has resisted repeated calls to resign after executives of the world's biggest meatpacker, JBS SA, accused him of taking millions in bribes. The president was charged this week with corruption.
Unions fiercely oppose Temer's labor reform bill as it reduces their power over workplaces by cutting mandatory dues and allowing companies and employees to negotiate contract terms more freely. The bill has already been approved by the lower house of Congress and looks set to pass the Senate within a few weeks.
Unions also criticize Temer's pension overhaul proposal as it would make Brazilians work more years before retiring. Economists and investors see pension reform as the only way for Brazil to shore up its finances in the long run without resorting to massive tax hikes.
Previous protests triggered violent clashes between demonstrators and police earlier this year. In May, Temer deployed the army to protect federal buildings after protesters set fire to a ministry building in Brasilia.
(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Silvio Cascione; Editing by Marguerita Choy)