Workers repave the plaza in front of Rio de Janeiro's "Arcos da Lapa," an aqueduct converted into a trolley bridge, on Feb. 1. In the past year, a trolley car ran off the arches' rails, killing five. These accidents are contributing to a growing concern about Rio de Janeiro's readiness to host the finals of the 2014 World Cup as well as the 2016 Olympics. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
SAO PAULO – Workers constructing and renovating Brazil's soccer stadiums for the 2014 World Cup are threatening to go on strike over regional payment and benefit discrepancies, ramping up pressure on the games' organizers, who are already behind schedule.
There have been isolated strikes across the nation, but unions representing the workers in each of the 12 host cities are trying to come together to plead for better conditions.
Union leader Claudio da Silva Gomes said Tuesday the workers are ready to go on strike as early as next month if construction companies don't agree to give employees the same salaries and benefits regardless of the venue.
FIFA has said World Cup preparations are behind schedule, and stadium construction has been one of the main concerns. The strike would likely create even more delays at several venues, especially the ones to be used for the Confederations Cup next year.
"We have workers doing almost exactly the same kind of work but they are not earning the same salary or being entitled to the same benefits at the different venues. This doesn't make sense," said Gomes, a leader at the national union organization CUT. "If they are doing the same work, they should be getting paid the same salary, regardless of which region they are working in."
He said there are different salaries and benefits to workers even when the same construction company is involved.
Pay discrepancies are common in Brazil in nearly all sectors, especially in the more impoverished north and northeast regions. Gomes said workers in the southeast and the southern regions are making nearly twice as much as the ones in the northeast.
"It's going to be more difficult to reach an agreement in these areas because the difference between what workers are making there compared to those in the south is significant," he said.
Support in the cities where workers receive better salaries may not be as strong. Workers in Rio, for example, said they might not join the movement if they are able reach a separate agreement locally.
"We might participate only in solidarity," Rio de Janeiro union leader Nilson Duarte said. "Or if our agreement is not as good as the one being sought collectively, but we don't know yet if that's going to happen."
There are more than 20,000 workers either renovating or building the stadiums in the 12 host cities.
The workers are seeking a unified starting monthly salary of about 1,000 reals ($580). They also want all workers to receive the same basic benefits and improved overtime.
The local World Cup organizing committee and the press office of President Dilma Rousseff said they would not immediately comment.
There have been workers' strikes in several host cities in the past, the most recent ending last week in the northeastern city of Salvador.
Also last week, a court in nearby Recife ruled that a strike started by nearly 2,000 workers building the World Cup stadium there was illegal. The court said an offer made by the construction company was fair and should have been accepted.
Among those venues affected by strikes was Maracana, which had its renovation halted for more than 20 days last year. The famed Rio stadium will host the World Cup and Confederations Cup finals, and the 2016 Olympics.
The central city of Belo Horizonte also was hit by a brief workers' strike last year.
Based on reporting from the Associated Press