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Brazil subway workers threaten to walk out as World Cup starts in Sao Paulo

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SAO PAULO - Subway workers in Brazil's biggest city threatened on Wednesday to walk out during the opening day of the World Cup unless union members fired during a strike are rehired.

"We do not accept the dismissals," said Rogerio Malaquias, a union spokesman. "Either all 42 are rehired or we will strike on Thursday."

World Cup organizers are counting on the subway system to carry tens of thousands of fans to the Itaquerao stadium, which is far from the hotel areas where most Cup tourists will stay.

On Monday the union suspended its strike for two days, but planned to vote again Wednesday to decide whether to renew it. If it does, the subway system could grind to a halt just as Brazil's national soccer team faces Croatia in the opening match.

Sao Paulo's Metropolitan Transportation agency said it has a "Plan B," but refused to say what that would entail.

"We will only give details if and when the workers go on strike again," an agency official said, insisting he couldn't give his name because he wasn't allowed to speak to the press about the issue.

Subway workers in Rio de Janeiro also had threatened to strike, but their union said workers voted Tuesday not to go on strike.

A Sao Paulo labour court has fined the Sao Paulo union $175,000 for the first four days of the strike and said it would add $220,000 for each additional day the work stoppage continued.

The subway strike was the latest unrest to hit Brazil in the run-up to the World Cup. Teachers remain on strike in Rio and routinely block streets with rallies. Police in several cities have gone on strike, but are back at work now.

There also has been a steady drumbeat of anti-government protests across Brazil blasting spending on the World Cup and demanding improvements in public services. The protests that began last year have diminished in size but not in frequency, and they also have disrupted traffic at times.

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Associated Press writers Adriana Gomez Licon in Sao Paulo and Bradley Brooks in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

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