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Rio airport staff call partial strike for World Cup opener

LiveMint logoLiveMint 12-06-2014 AFP

Rio de Janeiro: Ground staff at Rio de Janeiro’s airports have called a 24-hour partial strike on Thursday, the day Brazil hosts the opening match of the World Cup.

Flights to and from Rio de Janeiro remained unaffected by the strike, according to government-run airport management company Infraero. Airlines say the stoppage won’t affect World Cup travellers.

The strike won’t result in cancelled or delayed flights, as 70% of airline workers such as check-in counter and airplane maintenance employees will remain on the job along with 80% of baggage handlers, according to the press office of the union that represents Brazilian airlines, known as SNEA.

The workers vowed to respect a court ruling ordering them to maintain 70 to 80% service, but the strike will nevertheless raise fears of delays as thousands of football fans descend on the tourist-magnet city around the opening match in Sao Paulo and first game in Rio on Sunday.

“We’re Brazilian and we continue to root for Brazil, but it’s our duty to fight for workers’ rights,” union president Rui Pessoa told AFP. The union is calling for World Cup bonuses, better working conditions and raises of up to 12%, but says employers are offering a maximum of 8%.

The strike comes after “nine months of intense but failed negotiations and intransigence from employers,” the union said on its website. The walkout, which starts at midnight, will affect the city’s two main airports, Galeao International and Santos Dumont, which handles domestic flights. A court ordered airline employees to maintain at least 70% service and employees at other companies to maintain at least 80% service.

The National Civil Aviation Agency said it was monitoring the situation and had contingency plans in place for World Cup strikes. Pessoa said that although the strike was only partial he believed it would have “consequences” because of the increased number of flights during the World Cup—more than 1,000 a day in Rio.

Rio is one of the major arrival points for foreigners visiting Brazil. It is a 40-minute flight from Sao Paulo, which hosts Thursday’s opening match between Brazil and Croatia. More than three million Brazilians and 600,000 foreigners are expected to criss-cross Brazil during the tournament, which wraps up with the final match in Rio on 13 July.

Bloomberg contributed to this story.

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