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Sao Paulo subway strike to continue despite court ruling declaring it illegal

The union representing subway workers in Sao Paulo has vowed to press on with a work stoppage, defying a court ruling. The strike has snarled traffic in Brazil's largest city just days before the start of the World Cup.

Union leaders said late on Sunday that the strike, launched to back up workers' demands for higher wages, would continue indefinitely. The announcement followed a ruling handed down by a labor court which ordered the striking subway workers to return to the job.

In the ruling, the court also imposed a fine of 500,000 reais on the union ($223,000, 163,000 euros) for each day workers failed to report for work, effective this Monday.

After announcing the extension of the strike, union officials said the Homeless Workers' Movement and other groups had promised to join them in a major demonstration at one of Sao Paulo's subway stations later on Monday.

"The government is declaring a war against its workers," Alex Fernandes, the union's general secretary told the Associated Press. "They sit down to talk to us or there won't be subway service during the World Cup."

Fernandes also said the union intended to appeal the court's decision.

The striking workers are seeking a pay rise of 12.2 percent, but management has offered just 8.7 percent.

Fears of disruption for World Cup fans

Although the transit company has managed to provide limited subway service over the past few days, the strike has caused

major disruption, snarling traffic

as people have turned to their cars in the city of almost 20 million people.

With the strike now set to continue indefinitely, there are fears that many will have difficulty traveling to Thursday's opening game of the World Cup, when hosts Brazil are to face Croatia at Sao Paulo's Corinthians Arena.

Many of the teams set to compete in the tournament, including

Germany, have already arrived in Brazil

for their final preparations.

pfd/hc ( AFP, Reuters, AP)

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