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Subway workers strike

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

SAO PAULO, Brazil - 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 on Wednesday to determine if their strike would resume on Thursday the day the tournament's first match will be played in Sao Paulo.

The union is seeking a 12 per cent 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.

Authorities 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.

There were hopes the work stoppage might be resolved sooner.

Earlier 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.

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.

Prazeres said workers were willing to negotiate at a lower raise if the state-run subway company offered more benefits, but managers have refused to agree.

A spokeswoman for the subway company declined to answer questions. Many of the city's key intersections were jammed with cars and trucks, and traffic was moving very slowly elsewhere.

The 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.

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