Municipal workers strike in Brazilian World Cup city

Brasilia, Jun 2 (EFE).- Health, education and urban sanitation personnel on Monday went on strike in Porto Alegre, one of the 12 Brazilian cities that will host matches during the soccer World Cup, which will begin on June 12.

The strikers are demanding salary hikes of about 20 percent, but the city authorities, so far, have refused to agree.

Mayor Jose Fortunati had offered an increase of 2.5 percent, but in the face of the strike threat he decided to raise his proposal to 6.28 percent, a move the unions have also rejected.

The unions said that 30 percent of the employees are working, despite the strike, whereby they are complying with the law that obligates the unions to guarantee that minimum percentage of workers will be on the job in the case of public sector strikes.

"The problems caused by the strike are the responsibility of the mayor, since from the beginning of April negotiations have been under way regarding salaries," said Carmen Padilha, the head of the Porto Alegre Municipal Employees Union.

The strike in the southern city comes amid a wave of work stoppages in different sectors, such as transportation, education and health, in several of the 12 cities that will host the World Cup.

Authorities say the unions have decided to take advantage of the visibility afforded by the soccer tourney to exert pressure, but they are confident that the necessary agreements will be reached to prevent the strikes from continuing during the World Cup.

Another of the unions threatening to stage strikes during the tourney, also over pay differences, is the one representing Federal Police officers, who are responsible for customs duties, airport security and other matters.