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Rio subway workers threaten pre-World Cup strike

Subway employees in Rio de Janeiro threatened to go on strike the day before the World Cup opens, in the latest bid to use the tournament as leverage in labour negotiations.

RIO DE JANEIRO: Subway employees in Rio de Janeiro threatened on Tuesday to go on strike the day before the World Cup opens, in the latest bid to use the tournament as leverage in labour negotiations.

The threat came as their colleagues in fellow host city Sao Paulo debated whether to resume a damaging strike on Thursday, when the Brazilian mega-city hosts the World Cup opening ceremony and match.

In Rio, which is hosting seven matches including the final on July 13, the subway is the main link to the World Cup stadium, the Maracana, and around 800,000 passengers use the system every day.

"We're advising people that there may be a possible strike. We're going to do everything possible to prevent that from happening. We don't want a strike. But the company can't be so intransigent," union leader Sebastiao Batista Albuquerque told AFP.

After negotiations with management on Tuesday afternoon, the union will hold a general assembly in the evening to make its decision, Albuquerque said.

If workers in Rio vote to strike, it will take effect at midnight.

They are demanding a pay increase of 22 to 23 per cent and a reduction in the current fare of 3.50 reals ($1.55), which they say is the most expensive in the country.

In Sao Paulo, the five-day strike shut much of the city's subway system, causing huge traffic jams in the sprawling city of 20 million people as commuters scrambled to find alternative transport.

After a court ruled the strike illegal and 42 workers were fired, the union voted Monday to suspend the strike.

But their demand for a 12.2-per cent raise remains unresolved, and union leaders have vowed to resume the walkout if the sacked workers are not re-hired.

The union is due to vote on Wednesday on a resumption of the strike.

Brazil has been hit by a wave of strikes and protests ahead of the World Cup and elections in October.

Police, bank security guards, teachers and bus drivers have all staged walkouts in recent weeks.

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