Brazil bus driver strike enters second day
SAO PAULO (AP) — A strike by bus drivers demanding higher pay in Sao Paulo appeared to be losing steam Wednesday as it entered its second day but still managed to snarl traffic in Brazil’s largest city three weeks before the start of the World Cup.
The association representing Sao Paulo’s bus companies, SP Urbanuss, said that 60 percent of the city’s more than 8,000 buses were circulating on Wednesday. In the first day of the work stoppage, strikers kept almost the entire fleet off the streets or used the vehicles to block avenues and streets.
Unable to use buses, hundreds of thousands stayed at home or resorted to other ways to get to and from work, like the overcrowded subway system, public transit vans and commuter trains.
A four-minute video made by a photographer with the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper and posted on the UOL website, a major Brazilian Internet portal, showed thousands of people pushing, shoving and screaming in a slow-moving stampede as they inched toward the escalators and stairs leading out of the subway station of the Pinheiros district.
One woman fainted and is seen being carried out by security guards who had trouble getting through the crowd. In the frenzy, some people were trampled on and some fist fights broke out but no major injuries were reported.
The bus drivers’ union said the strike took it by surprise because earlier this week it and SP Urbanuss agreed to a 10 percent wage increase.
“But some workers who were expecting a 19 percent raise rebelled against the union and started the strike,” a union officer said by telephone. He declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Last week, bus drivers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second largest city, went on a 48-hour strike demanding higher wages.
Also on Wednesday, civil police in 14 states went on a 24-hour strike demanding higher wages. The striking officers are investigators and are not involved in patrolling the streets. According to the website of the Brazilian Civil Police Confederation, the strike affects at least six cities that will host World Cup games: Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Salvador, Manaus, Recife and Belo Horizonte.
The strikes underline fears of transit and security chaos as Brazil prepares for the June 12 start of the World Cup. Many fans will depend on public transportation to get to stadiums.