Subway strike suspended in Sao Paulo, may hit Rio

SAO PAULO (AP) — With a subway strike put on hold,
traffic in Brazil’s biggest city returned to its normal, congested
nature Tuesday, but there was no guarantee service would be on for
Thursday’s opening of the World Cup.
Subway workers in Rio de
Janeiro, meanwhile, were holding an assembly late Tuesday to vote on
whether they would strike to demand higher wages, threatening to disrupt
transportation there as of midnight local time (3:00 GMT).
Both
situations are deeply worrying for World Cup organizers. They’re
counting on the subway systems to carry tens of thousands of fans to the
games. The problem is a bigger worry for Sao Paulo, where the Itaquerao
stadium is far from the hotel areas where most Cup tourists will stay.
Union
workers in Sao Paulo suspended their strike for two days, but planned
to vote again Wednesday to decide whether to renew it. If they do, the
subway system would grind to a halt on Thursday just as Brazil’s
national soccer team faces Croatia in the Cup’s opening match.
Sao Paulo’s Metropolitan Transportation agency said it has a "Plan B" — yet refused to say
exactly what that would entail.
"We
will only give details if and when the workers go on strike again," an
agency official said, insisting he couldn’t give his name because he
wasn’t allowed to speak to the press about the issue.
A Sao Paulo
labor court has 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 continued.
The subway strike was the latest unrest to hit
Brazil in the run-up to the World Cup. Teachers remain on strike in Rio
and routinely block streets with rallies. Police in several cities have
gone on strike, but are back at work now.
There also has been a
steady drumbeat of anti-government protests across Brazil blasting
spending on the World Cup and demanding improvements in public services.
The protests that began last year have diminished in size but not in
frequency, and they also have disrupted traffic at times.