SAO PAULO – A strike by Sao Paulo Metro employees on Thursday protesting plans to privatize a portion of the subway system forced morning commuters to scramble for transportation alternatives, leading to massive traffic jams in Brazil’s largest city.
The 24-hour strike approved Wednesday night by the Metro workers’ union almost completely brought service to a halt on five of that mass-transit system’s six lines. The only line in operation is run by a private company.
Only around 20 percent of city’s subway system was in service even though a labor court had ruled that strikers needed to guarantee that at least 60 percent of the trains were running.
The job action was called to protest the Sao Paulo state government’s plan to award private companies the rights to operate two of the Metro lines in a bidding round scheduled for Friday.
Authorities responded to the strike by temporarily suspending the system that keeps private vehicles off the roads on certain days at rush hour based on the last number of their license plates.
With many more cars on the streets, traffic jams stretched for kilometers (miles) Thursday morning in that metropolis.
Huge crowds of people seeking an alternate means of transportation also gathered at bus stops, far surpassing the numbers the city’s bus service can handle.
The Sao Paulo Metro, which lamented the commuter chaos caused by the strike and said workers would be docked a day’s pay for the job action, says it intends to put just two of its lines in the hands of the private sector and that strikers are incorrect in saying the company is being privatized.