Brazil’s police have clashed in Sao Paulo with striking subway workers who are continuing to stay away from work despite a court declaring their strike to be illegal.
Riot police firing tear gas pushed about 100 striking workers out of a station on Monday, the fifth day of the protest that has thrown Sao Paulo’s normally congested traffic into chaos.
“This is the way they negotiate, with tear gas and repression,” Alexandre Roland, a union leader, told the AP news agency as he and others regrouped outside the station after confronting riot police.
The striking workers marched toward the city centre, where they planned to join a wide-ranging rally by various activist groups, including homeless workers demanding low-cost housing and a group calling for free public transportation.
Bruno Matos, a 24-year-old student, told Al Jazeera’s Elizabeth Gorman in Sao Paulo on Monday that he came to the rally to support the subway workers who he saw as fighters for commuter rights.
“It’s a fight not just for them, but also a fight over inequality in transportation. They have their specific fights for a salary, but also for the rights of the commuters,” said Matos.
On Sunday, a Brazilian court ordered the subway worker’s union to pay a $222,000 fine for every day that the strike continues, up from the $45,000 they had to pay for the first four days.
Hours later, the union said it voted in favour of continuing the strike that was called “abusive” by the court.
“Clearly, the court ruling was a big blow to the unions,” said Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Sao Paulo.
The subway strike is threatening to jeopardise the football World Cup that Brazil will host in few days time.
“FIFA and the Brazilian government are watching this very closely as the majority of the tourists and football fans in Sao Paulo will be using the metro or train to go to the opening match this Thursday.”
The five-line subway system has been partially operating, but trains were not arriving at the Corinthians Arena that will host the opening game.
Union workers have reduced an initial demand of a 16.5 percent wage rise to 12.2 percent. Employers are offering 8.7 percent.