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A Subway Strike Threatens to Paralyze São Paulo on World Cup Opening Day

Policemen in riot gear stand inside Ana Rosa subway station during the fifth day of metro worker's protest in Sao Paulo on June 9, 2014.
Kai Pfaffenbach—Reuters Policemen in riot gear stand inside Ana Rosa subway station during the fifth day of metro worker's protest in Sao Paulo on June 9, 2014.

The first game of the World Cup, Brazil vs. Croatia, may take place in crippling traffic chaos on Thursday, if São Paulo's subway employees make good on a threat to strike if sacked comrades are not reinstated

Subway workers in São Paulo ended a five-day strike late Monday, but threatened to walk out again on Thursday, the day of the World Cup opening game, if their demands aren’t met, potentially causing chaos and embarrassment to Brazil’s largest city, which is currently teeming with soccer fans from around the world.

The strike started as a fight over salary, but has turned into a struggle to reinstate 42 subway workers who were fired over allegations of vandalism and misconduct.

“The other demands aren’t a priority anymore,” said the metro workers’ union president Altino de Melo Prazeres Júnior, adding that the union members going back to work was showing “good faith in wanting to negotiate.”

However, State Transportation Secretary Jurandir Fernandes said the government would not budge on its position that the sacked workers shouldn’t be rehired and a wage hike should be limited to 8.7%, as opposed to the workers’ demand of 12.2%.

“This shows [the striking subway workers’] disregard not only for the people of São Paulo, but for the people of Brazil and the foreign visitors,” he said.

A labor judge ruled the strike illegal over the weekend, imposing a $222,000 fine on the union for each day workers fail to show up on duty. Still, the strike spilled over into Monday, when police clashed with protesting workers outside a metro station in São Paulo, using tear gas and arresting 13 people.

The opening game of the World Cup will be played in São Paulo between Brazil and Croatia. Union leaders said a Wednesday vote would decide whether the workers should go back on strike or not.


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