SAO PAULO, Brazil — 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, were holding an assembly to vote on whether they would strike to demand higher wages, threatening to disrupt transportation. By late Tuesday night there was no announcement of their decision.
Both situations are deeply worrying for World Cup organizers. They’re counting on the subway systems to carry tens of thousands of fans to the games. The problem is a bigger worry for Sao Paulo, 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" -- yet 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 labour 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.