Striking subway staff protest three days from World Cup

Striking subway staff protest three days from World Cup
With the 2014 Fifa World Cup less than a month away, courtsiders - just like broadcast delays - can be expected.

SAO PAULO - Striking subway workers have called a demonstration in Sao Paulo on Monday, pressing on with a walkout threatening to cause transport chaos at the World Cup opener in three days.

The five-day-old strike has already caused massive traffic jams in Brazil's largest city as its new stadium prepares to welcome more than 60,000 fans for Thursday's Brazil-Croatia game.

The 9,000-member union plans to protest Monday morning at a central metro station where police used tear gas and truncheons to disperse strikers last Thursday.

The Homeless Workers' Movement (MTST), a mainstay of the anti-World Cup protests that have shaken Brazil over the past year, and other activist groups also plan to take part.

The protest comes as World Cup teams continue arriving in Brazil, with reigning champions Spain touching down Sunday night.

The US, France, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Honduras and Cameroon are all expected Monday.

After that all but five of the tournament's 32 teams will be on the ground.

But the chaos gripping Sao Paulo - the latest in a wave of strikes and protests around the tournament - has distracted the usually passionate footballing nation from the World Cup buildup.

Union president Altino Melo dos Prazeres told subway workers Sunday they should seize on the tournament and elections later this year to pressure the authorities.

The five-line subway system has been partially operating, but trains were not arriving at Corinthians Arena, which will host the opening game.

Monday's protest promises to add to commuters' headaches in the sprawling city of 20 million people, known for its terrible traffic even when public transport is running normally.

The workers have reduced an initial demand for a 16.5-percent wage hike to 12.2 percent, but employers are offering only 8.7 percent.

Rising inflation and a sluggish economy have tarnished the World Cup glow in Brazil, fueling the anger of strikers and protesters who say the $11-billion budget would have been better spent on education, health and transport.

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