World Cup 2014: Underground strike continues as unions defy court order ahead of World Cup opening match

Underground strike could lead to serious transport disruptions ahead of the World Cup opening match on Thursday

With just three days to go until the World Cup, underground workers in São Paulo defied a court rule and went on strike for a fifth day, causing massive transport disruptions in the country's biggest city.

Underground workers, who are seeking a pay rise of 12.2 per cent, almost twice the annual inflation rate, will continue to strike after voting in favour of extending industrial action.

The lack of public transport could lead to serious disruptions ahead of the opening match between Brazil and Croatia on Thursday unless an agreement is reached. The state-owned company has offered 8.7 per cent pay rise.

Gerald Alckmin, the governor of the state of Sao Paulo, has threatened to dismiss those who do not show up for work as usual in a desperate move to contain the situation, which has led to massive traffic jams in the city, which will host the opening match.

"The World Cup is not an excuse for us" to strike, Paulo Pasin, president of Fenametro, the country's nationwide union of subway workers, told Reuters . "We want to reopen negotiations".

 

On Sunday, a Brazilian court ruled the strike is illegal and accused the unions of "abusing" their power. It also ordered Fenametro to pay 100,000 reais per day (£25,000) for the first four days of strike and 500,000 reais (£130,000) per day starting Monday.

Earlier, riot police used tear gas to disperse protesters blocking access to the Ana Rosa subway station in downtown Sao Paulo. No injuries were reported.

Many Brazilians are angry at the billions spent to host the World Cup. Protesters have said the government should focus spending instead on improving Brazil's health care, education, security and infrastructure systems.

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