(AFP) – Bus drivers in Natal, one of Brazil’s 12 World Cup host cities, have announced they will go on strike Thursday, the day the tournament opens.
Union leader Paulo Cesar Ferreira said the strike would affect both buses and mini-buses, the only form of public transport in the northeastern city, which is hosting four World Cup matches starting with Mexico versus Cameroon on June 13.
Workers decided to keep 30 percent of the fleet on the road to avoid paralyzing the city completely, Ferreira said.
But the strike leaves organizers scrambling to find alternative transport to get fans to the 42,000-capacity Dunas Arena.
Ferreira denied the union was using the World Cup as leverage.
“Our negotiations take place at the same time every year. The Cup was a coincidence,” he told AFP.
Workers are seeking a 16-percent raise and say management has not yet made a counter-offer.
It is the latest in a wave of strikes by public transport workers, police, security guards, teachers and other workers to sweep Brazil ahead of the World Cup.
Recent transport strikes have caused chaos in other World Cup host cities.
In Sao Paulo, subway workers suspended a damaging five-day strike Monday but are threatening to strike again Thursday, when the city hosts the opening match, if the government does not meet their demands.
In Rio de Janeiro, which will host the final on July 13, a bus drivers’ strike caused traffic mayhem last month, and subway workers threatened to strike on the eve of the World Cup before reaching a last-minute deal with management.
In Brasilia, the capital, bus drivers decided not to go on strike after winning a 20-percent increase Sunday.
Natal doctors have also threatened to go on strike.