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World Cup 2014: Airport Workers Kick Off Strike In Rio, Just As Fans Descend On Brazil...

12/06/2014 09:24 BST | Updated 12/06/2014 09:59 BST
NELSON ALMEIDA via Getty Images
Metro workers meeting at their union headquarters in Sao Paulo, Brazil on June 11, 2014 during the session where they decided the end of their strike, on the eve of the opening match of the FIFA World Cup 2014. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

An airport workers' strike has kicked of in Rio, just before the World Cup's opening match.

Ground staff at Rio de Janeiro’s two airports declared a partial work stoppage beginning at midnight Wednesday.

With more than three million Brazilians and 600,000 foreigners expected to travel in Brazil during the tournament, the strike will raise fears of delays as thousands of football fans descend on the city.

Other strikes have recently crippled Brazilian cities as unions exert leverage at a time when the government is trying to avert major problems.

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Rio’s Galeao international airport is expected to be one of the country’s busiest during the month-long football tournament, which wraps up with the final match in Rio on July 13.

The walkout also would affect Santos Dumont airport, which provides domestic service, including flights to Sao Paulo, where the first World Cup game was being held Thursday.

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Unions representing workers at the two airports including check-in counter clerks, baggage handlers and janitorial staff have been seeking for months raises of at least 5.6% and special bonuses tied to the World Cup.

The umbrella union that represents the workers is calling for World Cup bonuses, better working conditions and raises of up to 12%, but says employers are offering a maximum of 8%.

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"After nine months of intense but failed negotiations and intransigence from employers, the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Airports Employees' Union confirms it will strike on June 12," the union said on its website.

A union representative said only 20% of workers would walk off the job for 24 hours initially.

A labour court in Rio issued an injunction ordering the unions to maintain staffing at 80% of normal levels or face fines of up to $22,400.

Meanwhile, subway workers in Sao Paulo voted on Wednesday against resuming a five-day strike that would have caused traffic chaos during the opening game.

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