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Rio police end strike in time for carnival
Unions in Brazilian city vote to end protest over pay, but pledge to "renew demands" once annual street party is over.
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2012 11:33
Police strikes, in which several people died, stoked concerns about Brazil's ability to host football World Cup [Reuters]

Police officers and firefighters in Rio de Janeiro have ended their pay strike, days before the annual carnival.

"What we were given were crumbs ... After carnival we're going to talk again to renew our demands"

- Fernando Bandeira,
Sinpol union president

Union officials in the Brazilian state said a vote on Monday had agreed to stop the demonstration over pay. The decision came just two days after a similar strike ended in the northeastern state of Bahia, which saw the murder rate double in its capital, Salvador, during the stoppage.

The strikes, and the threat of similar action in other Brazilian states, had increased concerns about Brazil's security forces before its hosting of the 2014 football World Cup and Rio's hosting the 2016 Olympics.

Fernando Bandeira, Sinpol's president, one of the unions representing police, said officers and firefighters jointly decided to end the strike because "we don't want to harm our Rio, especially during carnival".

He said, however, that officers would take up their grievances once the party was over.

"What we were given were crumbs, and not even close to what we asked for," he said. "After carnival we're going to talk again to renew our demands. The movement is alive."

Demands

The work stoppage began with a large rally in Rio's centre late on Thursday, on the same day the state legislature voted to give officers a 39 per cent raise spread throughout this year and the next. This, however, did not meet the demands of the officers who had requested twice this amount.

While the current base pay for police starts at $964 per month in Rio state, it can go to $1,169 for a starting officer willing to participate in available training courses, the department said.

Police and firefighters in Rio de Janeiro went on strike demanding better salaries, benefits and working conditions

Additional to the base pay, the 39 per cent raise will only go into effect in 2013.

The government made no new concessions to officers to end the strike.

Through labour negotiations, officers in Bahia received a 6.5 per cent pay raise, rights to some bonus payments and also amnesty against punishment against any striking officers as long as they did not commit any crimes during the stoppage.

During the strike in Salvador, several people were killed and order was only restored after 3,600 soldiers and federal police were forced to patrol the metropolitan area and some regions around the state.

A similar situation was feared in Rio, the number of officers who participated in the strike, which had already lost a lot of support, were relatively small and army soldiers did not have to be deployed to manage the situation.

Dozens of striking police and union leaders in Rio were arrested and remain jailed, and Bandeira said getting them freed was now the union's main concern.

Top police officials say police are not legally able to strike, but that question is being debated in Brazil's court system.

Carnival starts officially on Friday, but large street parties that can draw up to two million people to the streets have already started and were carried out with no special security problems.

Rio's carnival pumps more than $500m into the city's economy annually.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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