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World Cup 2014: Airport workers strike threatens to leave England fans stranded


Fans hoping to see England’s opening match against Italy may struggle to get to the game after airport workers in Rio de Janeiro went on strike.

The knock-on effects of today’s 24-hour strike threaten to stop fans getting connecting flights to Manaus – which is in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest – in time for kick-off on Saturday.

Today, Army tanks, jeeps and armoured lorries were sent to Santos Dumont – Rio’s main airport for internal flights – in anticipation of angry scenes after check-in staff, baggage handlers, mechanics and engineers walked out over pay.

About a dozen workers blocked a road outside the airport, causing long tailbacks. There were also reports of long queues inside the airport itself. Rio’s Galeao International airport, expected to be used by many England fans, was also hit by the strike action.

Union representatives promised that only 20 per cent of workers would be on strike at any one time after a labour court threatened to fine unions £13,000 if staffing fell below 80 per cent of normal levels.

But if strikes continue at Galeao and Santos Dumont airports, the potential for disruption to the World Cup is huge. An average of 68,000 people a day passed through the two airports last month, and tournament traffic is expected to swell numbers further.

Tournament organisers welcomed a decision by 1,500 workers on Sao Paulo’s metro system, who responded to a public backlash by voting not to strike when Brazil played Croatia in the opening match of the World Cup.