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Subway strike in Sao Paulo continues ahead of opening of World Cup

BRASILIA, June 9 (Xinhua) -- The strike by subway workers in Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo, has entered the fifth day on Monday, disrupting transportation just three days before the opening of the 2014 Brazil World Cup.

On Monday, only 36 out of 65 stations in the city were operating, according to local media.

Early in the day, the workers clashed with military riot police outside the subway's Ana Rosa station, leading to the arrest of 13 subway employees.

The city's Transportation Secretariat announced it fired 60 subway employees for agitating during the strike.

The workers gathered Monday morning at the city's downtown Plaza de Se and urged other social and union groups to join them in a march towards the Secretariat of Public Security to demand authorities release the detained, and to the Transportation Secretariat to reject the dismissals.

In an assembly Sunday, the workers decided to continue the strike despite a ruling by Sao Paulo's Regional Labor Tribunal that the strike constituted an "abuse" and was illegal. The court will additionally fine the union 500,000 reals (about 230,000 U.S. dollars) for each day.

"We have a World Cup, the world's largest sporting event (and) the state governor is up for reelection at the end of the year, he has to negotiate. We must confront the government," the president of the subway worker's union, Altino Melo dos Prazeres, said in justifying the timing of the strike.

Striking workers have cut their original 16.5 percent wage increase demand to 12.2 percent, but the company that operates the subway has said it can only offer an 8.7 percent wage rise.

According to Metropolitan Transportation Secretary Jurandir Fernandes, if the strike continues through Thursday, the government will ask the games' authority, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), to allow spectators to enter the stadium an hour earlier than scheduled, so they have more time to get to the site.

When operating normally, the city's subway can shuttle some 30, 000 people to the site per hour, otherwise stadium goers will have to resort to alternative, and slower means of transport.

Brazil is set to play Croatia on June 12 in the inaugural match of football's ultimate championship at Sao Paulo's Corinthians Arena, in the city's Itaquera district.

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