Subway strike suspended for 2 days in Sao Paulo


SAO PAULO (AP) — Leaders of striking subway workers
announced Monday night the union was suspending for two days a work
stoppage that has thrown traffic into chaos in Sao Paulo before the city
hosts the World Cup’s opening game this week.
But in a statement
on the union’s website, leaders said they would hold a vote Wednesday to
determine if their strike would resume Thursday — the day the
tournament’s first match will be played in Sao Paulo.
The union is
seeking a 12 percent wage hike but the government says it won’t offer
anything above 8.7 percent. Meetings between government officials and
union representatives on Monday stalled on that point.
are deeply worried about the strike because the subway is the main
means of transportation for fans who will attend the tournament’s
initial game between Brazil and Croatia. The stadium is about 20
kilometers (12 miles) east of central Sao Paulo, where most tourists
There were hopes the work stoppage might be resolved sooner
than that as union officials met for the first time in days with
government authorities in talks that continued into Monday night.
in the day, riot police fired tear gas to force about 100 striking
workers out of the station on the fifth day of a subway strike that has
thrown Sao Paulo’s normally congested traffic into chaos.
"This is
the way they negotiate, with tear gas and repression," Alexandre
Roldan, a union leader, said as he and others strikers regrouped outside
the station following the confrontation.
Altino Prazeres,
president of the union leading the strike, said almost all of the 8,000
subway employees had walked out in the past few days. He marched along
with workers on a street in central Sao Paulo and said they were not
interested in disrupting the World Cup.
"I love soccer! I support
our national team. The point is not to stop the Cup," he said. "We want
to resolve this today and all are willing to negotiate."
said workers were willing to negotiate a lower raise if the state-run
subway company offered more benefits, but managers have refused to
A spokeswoman for the subway company declined to answer
questions. About half of the city’s subway stations were operating, but
with greatly diminished service. Many of the city’s key intersections
were jammed with cars and trucks, and traffic was moving very slowly
Sao Paulo state’s transport secretary, Jurandir
Fernandes, told local reporters that 60 striking workers had been fired,
and union officials began hearing of their members receiving telegrams
announcing the dismissal.
Bruno Everton, who sells tickets at a
subway station and is one of the union’s regional leaders, received a
letter Monday saying he had been dismissed.
"It’s an embarrassment
that Brazil is depriving the workers of their rights," Everton said.
"This is an illegal firing. The government is trying to provoke us. They
are threatening us."
After being forced out of the subway station
by police early Monday, striking workers marched in the city center and
about 400 gathered in front of the state government building housing
the transportation secretariat.
A Sao Paulo labor court over the
weekend fined the union $175,000 for the first four days of the strike
and said it would add $220,000 for each additional day the work stoppage
Other groups have supported the strike, saying workers
deserve a fair raise and the government ought to invest more in public
transportation. But some people are angry because commutes are taking
much longer in the city of 11 million.
Adriana Silva, who works as
a cashier at a jewelry store downtown, said it has taken her three
hours to get to work from the eastern tip of the city where the World
Cup will kick off.
"Why do this now? Why so close to the Cup?" she said. "Who they end up hurting more is us.
This has to stop."
subway strike is the latest unrest to hit Brazil in the run-up to the
World Cup. Teachers remain on strike in Rio de Janeiro and routinely
block streets with rallies. Police in several cities have gone on
strike, but are back at work now.
The work stoppages are in
addition to a steady drumbeat of anti-government protests that began a
year ago during huge demonstrations in dozens of Brazilian cities. Those
protests blasted government spending for the World Cup and demanded big
improvements in woeful public services like hospitals, schools,
security and transportation.
The anti-government protests have
greatly diminished in size but not in frequency. Demonstrations have
repeatedly erupted in Brazil’s metropolitan areas in recent months, with
even a small number of protesters blocking main roadways and severely
disrupting traffic.
Associated Press writers Joshua Goodman and Bradley Brooks in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

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