Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Brazil Updates June 11 , 2014 -- Brazil Subway workers strike updates ( Rio subway workers accept 8 percent hike but Sao Paulo strike not resolved ) , key takeaway - in Sao Paolo the strike is suspended for two days but not resolved , potential disruption for the start of the World Cup still possible !

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, held 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 (0300 GMT). But the union representing subway operators voted not to go on strike, according to Rio's biggest newspaper O Globo - instead deciding to accept a wage hike of 8 percent.
The situation in Sao Paulo is deeply worrying for World Cup organizers. They are counting on the subway systems to carry tens of thousands of fans to the games there, 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" - but 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.

Workers fired as metro strike continues in Brazil's largest city

The Sao Paulo state government announced Monday the dismissal of 60 metro employees in Brazil's largest city, who supported the "illegal" strike that began five days ago.
The walkout threatens to leave without transport thousands of fans who will attend Thursday's inaugural match of the 2014 soccer World Cup at Sao Paulo's Arena Corinthians stadium.
The news about strikers being fired came soon after police used tear gas to scatter a group of demonstrators who tried to block access to a metro station.
The state government said it can and will get tough with strikers under the Regional Labor Court ruling that declared the strike illegal.
"Who got fired? Those who had already been booked for vandalism, improper use of the subway, who physically blocked access or who incited the public to enter without paying. In conclusion, those who committed the most serious offenses," the transport secretary of Sao Paulo,Jurandir Fernandes, said on a local radio station.
Only 255 of the 1,534 metro employees scheduled to work Monday morning actually showed up.
Fernandes said the metro is technically capable of taking back workers who have been dismissed, and also has the power to hire contractors on an emergency basis.
Metro workers decided at a meeting Sunday that they would stick to the walkout despite the court ruling.
Sao Paulo Gov. Geraldo Alckmin ordered police reinforcements sent to all metro stations to guarantee security for employees wanting to return to work
Despite the strike, two of the five metro lines were operating normally on Monday, while trains on the other three were operating but not all their stations were open.
The Regional Labor Court also said the union must pay a fine of 500,000 reais ($222,000) a day if the shutdown continues.
The court at a conciliatory hearing set a wage hike of 8.7 percent for workers on the state-government-run Sao Paulo subway, compared with the 12.2 percent demanded by the union.
"We have a World Cup, the biggest sports event in the world. The state government has elections late this year (October), it has to negotiate. We have to confront the government," the union president said in justifying the decision to continue the strike.
Public sector unions in the 12 Brazilian cities hosting World Cup matches have been taking advantage of the approach of the June 12-July 13 competition to press demands for higher pay.
At the same time, social groups are staging protests over the huge sums of public money spent on the competition. EFE

Brazil Strike Threatens World Cup Opening

Transit Union Suspends Strike but Insists Sacked Workers Be Reinstated; Vote Planned on Resuming Walkout on First Match

  • Updated June 10, 2014 7:43 a.m. ET
    Two days before the 2014 World Cup opener, union leaders suspend a five-day transit strike that paralyzed the city of São Paulo, but say workers would vote Wednesday on whether or not to resume the walkout. WSJ Brazil bureau chief Marla Dickerson discusses the details with Simon Constable on the News Hub.
    SÃO PAULO—Union leaders suspended a five-day strike that has paralyzed this city, but said workers would vote Wednesday on whether to resume the walkout, which threatens to bring chaos to the first day of the World Cup soccer tournament.
    The development came late on Monday after negotiations between the state government and union leaders broke down and São Paulo State Transportation Secretary Jurandir Fernandes said it was now up to the union to decide its next move.
    What began as a dispute over pay is now centered on the state's sacking of 42 subway workers Monday for alleged vandalism and misconduct. Mr. Fernandes said the government would stand firm on its decision not to reinstate the workers.
    São Paulo Metro workers' union President Altino de Melo Prazeres Júnior said his members would return to work immediately as a show of "good faith in wanting to negotiate." But he said the union would walk off the job again on Thursday—the day of the opening soccer match between Brazil and Croatia—if the workers aren't rehired.

    A soccer fan holds a Brazilian flag in front of two policemen outside a São Paulo subway station on Monday, the fifth day of a subway workers' strike. Reuters
    "The other demands aren't a priority anymore," he said. "The priority is the reinstatement of the 42 comrades," he said.
    The standoff comes as thousands of fans are streaming into Brazil's largest city for soccer's biggest event.
    About four million people a day use São Paulo's Metro, which is a vital means of transport in this traffic-choked city. Tournament organizers are counting on the Metro to shuttle fans to the brand-new Arena de São Paulo, which will host six tournament matches and is about 12 miles from the city center. The government projects that more than 24,000 fans will ride the Metro to Thursday's opening match.
    The strike is a potential embarrassment to Brazil, which has struggled with unfinished stadiums and street protests by citizens angry over the $11.5 billion spent on the cup.

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    President Dilma Rousseff has declined to intervene in the São Paulo dispute and a number of others that have roiled Brazil in recent weeks. Memories of brutal crackdowns on unions by the nation's former military dictatorship have made labor rights almost sacred in Brazil. And Ms. Rousseff, who is running for re-election this October, is counting heavily on that support.
    Analysts said the strife also highlights Ms. Rousseff's lack of deep union roots. Those ties were critical to her predecessor and mentor, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who built up his power base in metalworker unions at car factories in São Paulo and was often able to resolve labor disputes.
    "Dilma's problem is that she doesn't have the ability to negotiate with the unions, as Lula did, so you can't say that she has the power to bring the strike to an end," said David Fleischer, professor of political science at the University of Brasília.
    See how the tournament would play out if 32 countries were competing in things other than soccer: The World Cup of Everything Else.
    Key players to watch, from Lionel Messi to Xavi to Cristiano Ronaldo: Team Profiles
    See a guide to Brazil's World Cup stadiums
    Six goals and what they show about team strategy:National Teams' Styles
    A spokesman for the president declined to comment.
    The Metro strike began Thursday with Metro workers demanding a 35% salary rise in a country where inflation is running above 6.5%. A labor judge over the weekend ruled that the strike was illegal and imposed a $222,000 fine for each day that strikers remain off the job.
    Strikers lowered their demands to a 12.2% increase. But the state government has toughened its stance as the strike has worn on, sticking firm to its offer of an 8.7% pay rise and no rehiring of the fired workers.
    Mr. Fernandes said the government would add more buses to transport fans to the Sao Paulo stadium if subway workers make good on their threat to strike on Thursday. He called the union's willingness to disrupt Brazil's big moment "shocking."
    "This shows their disregard not only for the people of São Paulo, but for the people of Brazil and the foreign visitors," he said. "
    The stance by São Paulo state Gov. Geraldo Alckmin, who is from the opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party has won some support from a frustrated public.
    "I think that Alckmin was right to fire the Metro workers," said cabdriver Natalino de Campos, 58 years old. "The governor was trying to establish some sense of order" He said he wasn't going to earn more because of the strike and had suffered as a result of the heavier than usual traffic.
    Union leaders said Mr. Alckmin was trying to "intimidate" Metro workers and blamed him for the impasse
    "The tendency is for the strike to continue because governor Alckmin didn't agree to reinstate 42 Metro employees that were sacked this morning," said São Paulo Metro workers' union President Altino de Melo Prazeres Júnior. "I think the union would agree to return to work if the sacked employees were given back to their jobs."
    On Monday morning, police had clashed with labor-union members outside a Metro station. Officers used tear gas against some 200 protesters gathered near the Ana Rosa station in the city's southern district of Vila Mariana, and 13 people were detained.
    All Metros lines were running after managers and administrative personnel manned some trains and ticket booths to keep the system operating. Still, around half of the 65 Metro stations were closed Monday morning, a Metro spokesman said.
    "It's all a mess, this strike hurts workers the most," said Jurandir Ferreira, 32, an office worker who was outside the Tatuapé metro station. He said he lives close to his office but uses the metro for work, to deliver documents around the city.
    "I'm sure these union workers are holding all these strikes to make the most of the World Cup and the elections," said Mr. Ferreira. "They want to be on TV, and the government is weaker because Brazil is news all around the world."
    Meanwhile, in Rio de Janeiro, workers at the local state Metro company there threatened to walk out this week if their demands for wage increases weren't met.
    In an open letter to the people of Rio de Janeiro, the Rio state metro workers' labor union said salaries there are the lowest among subway workers anywhere in Brazil. The union said that a trained specialist with 10 years' experience earns 1,500 Brazilian reais ($674) a month.
    The subway strike just the latest in a series of labor actions in Brazil in recent weeks as public workers, emboldened by the international spotlight and the billions their government has spent on the tournament, have demanded large pay raises.
    Strikes by bus drivers have temporarily crippled the World Cup host cities of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. A three-day walkout by police in Recife, another tournament host, sparked public unrest and the looting of stores in May. Belo Horizonte, another host, suffered a strike by thousands of city employees—including garbage collectors—during most of May.