Brazil strikes grip World Cup cities

No buses are running in World Cup host city Salvador, and various public sector workers are either on strike or considering action elsewhere, including Rio and São Paulo.

Brazil strikes grip World Cup cities

World Bulletin / News Desk

Public sector strikes are continuing in major cities in Brazil, 16 days before the World Cup is set to kick off in the South American country.

No buses are running in the World Cup host city of Salvador, after sides failed to reach agreement over pay and conditions.

Those on strike are demanding a 12 percent increase in wages, and a more generous food voucher; the government is currently offering a 9 percent pay rise.

“There is no way for us to accept this proposal. It is too low,” Hélio Ferreira, a local bus drivers' union president was quoted on the G1 news portal as saying.

Local authorities have laid on around 300 minibuses to mitigate the impact of the strike but the city is the northeast region's largest, with a population of around 3.5 million including the metropolitan area.

Salvador, Brazil's first capital, is a major tourist hotspot and is likely to draw a significant proportion of the estimated 600,000 foreign visitors arriving in Brazil for the World Cup. The city's new 52,000-capacity Arena Fonte Nova stadium is hosting six matches.

Meanwhile, buses are also not running for a sixth day in São Luís, capital of northeastern state of Maranhão, bringing ongoing transport chaos to tens of thousands of commuters.

In Rio de Janeiro, where the World Cup final will be played out, union groups will meet Tuesday afternoon to decide whether public transport, education and health workers will strike.

In Belo Horizonte, another of the 12 host cities, doctors are holding a 48-hour walkout.

More to come

After nearly three days of bus strikes complicated the commutes for an estimated 300,000 people last week, São Paulo is now waiting to see if industrial action will be called by workers of the metro (subway) system, used by around 4.5 million people every day, according to Estadão newspaper.

São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad has called the strikes acts of “sabotage” and “vandalism” and a court decided Monday that unions associated with the wildcat strikers would be fined $90,000 for the “strike abuses.”

A meeting is set to take place at 6:30 p.m. local time and unions have not ruled out that strike action could affect the opening of the World Cup, on the evening of June 12 in São Paulo. Two metro stations serve the Arena São Paulo stadium, likely to be most fans' route to the venue.

Teachers in São Paulo have been on strike since April 23, regularly marching in their thousands on the city center in peaceful protests that ground part of the city to a halt. Around 60 percent of classes are affected by the stoppages, teaching unions say.

University lecturers and other staff are also joining the wave of strikes, including those at the prestigious University of São Paulo, whose lecturers have reportedly not been on strike over pay in a decade.

While it is traditional for Brazil's unions to haggle pay rise settlements at this time of year, union experts speaking to the Anadolu Agency say negotiations have been far fiercer than usual on account of the World Cup and are expected to ratchet up in pressure as the tournament begins and the country is put in the global spotlight.

Some official and wildcat unions groups, anti-World Cup protesters and other movements have called for a general strike on June 12, the opening day, and throughout the month-long football (soccer) tournament, both in protest at the amount of public money spent on the sporting mega-event, and simply using pressure on officials to host a hassle-free World Cup as leverage to force the government's hand.

As well as 600,000 foreign visitors, over 3 million Brazilians are set to travel to the 12 stadiums dotted across Brazil.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 28 Mayıs 2014, 16:28