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Far-right Sao Paulo governor confronts unions in city-wide strike against privatisation

STRIKES paralysed public transport in Sao Paulo today as unions try to block right-wing Governor Tarcisio de Freitas’s privatisation plans.

Huge queues lined up outside bus and underground rail stations as unions defied orders from the state’s labour court to maintain minimum service levels — set at 100 per cent service during peak hours and 80 per cent outside them. 

Unions ignored the threat of heavy fines for the second time, having defied the minimum service requirement in a previous strike last month.

The Sao Paulo Metro & Rail Workers’ Union said it had asked authorities in Brazil’s biggest city to open barriers so passengers could travel for free, allowing the strike to take place without disrupting journeys, but that they had refused.

Mr Freitas, who as infrastructure minister under ex-president Jair Bolsonaro sold concessions to private companies across Brazil’s road, rail and waterway networks while privatising 13 ports and 12 airports, has vowed to carry out a similar project for the country’s richest state — with transport joining sewage and water systems and the electricity supply on the sell-off list.

Left-wing Sao Paulo MP Samia Bomfim said the results of electricity privatisation had already been a disaster, with thousands of staff laid off leading to city-wide power cuts courtesy of private provider Enel. The city should not risk similar wreckage of its transport sector, she warned.

Mr Freitas claimed the strikes are “unreasonable” and defy his mandate as elected governor.

Metro workers’ union president Camila Lisboa said privatisation would raise prices and worsen service and accused the governor of refusing to respect the right to strike.

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