Rio de Janeiro construction strike affects work at Olympic sites

Tue May 19, 2015 11:42am EDT
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By Rodrigo Viga Gaier

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Heavy-construction workers in Rio de Janeiro, many involved in work for the 2016 Olympic Games, have begun a strike, the union representing the workers said, threatening to slow completion of projects that are already behind schedule,

About 70 percent of the 12,000 Rio de Janeiro-region members of the Intermunicipal Union of Heavy Construction Workers, known by their Portuguese-language acronym Sitraicp, put down their tools on Monday, the union said. They plan to strike until at least Friday, the date set for an arbitrator to decide on conflicting demands from workers and management.

The union wants an 8.5 percent pay raise plus a 40 real ($13.29) increase in a monthly food subsidy. Employers have offered a 7.3 percent increase.

If the strike is resolved Friday, work on stadiums and transportation infrastructure projects should not be seriously affected, Sitraicp president Nelson Duarte told Reuters late Monday.

"If it is not resolved, then we will go on strike indefinitely, Duarte said. "If there is a 10- to 15-day stoppage, there will be an negative impact on (Olympic) work."

The workers' demands come as Brazil's economy slows but inflation remains stubbornly above the Brazilian government's target of 4.5 percent a year, plus or minus two percentage points.

Brazilian consumer prices were 8.17 percent higher in April than a year earlier according to Brazil's statistics agency IBGE.

Talks between union and management began in February, but construction and engineering companies rejected an initial demand for a 15 percent raise.   Continued...

A view of the construction site of the Rio 2016 Olympic Aquatic sports venue at the Rio 2016 Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro May 7, 2015. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes