By Andrew Willis, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Two days of traffic chaos caused by disgruntled truck drivers came to an end on Wednesday morning, but more strike action may follow in the coming weeks. Angered by government changes to working hour rules, thousands of truck drivers earlier this week blocked the Via Dutra – the main highway between the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
The ensuing traffic congestion caused a spike in fruit and vegetable prices in the two cities, also affecting other agricultural products as transport vehicles struggled to make vital deliveries.
A deal reached between the government and the Brazilian Truckers Union Movement led to a slow breakup of the blockades on Wednesday, but by Thursday the highway was the scene of more protests, this time carried out by workers in the General Motors’ factory in São José dos Campos.
The vital artery was occupied for roughly one hour by factory metalworkers, reports NoticiasBR. The Via Dutra is considered the most important highway in Brazil, linking the country’s two biggest cities and servicing a key area of the economy.
Underlining the potential for further traffic chaos in the weeks to come, Brazil’s federal highway police are set to decide over the next fortnight on whether to trigger a national strike.
In Rio, the first move should happen as early as next Monday, when a meeting will decide if the police are to take action. According to the president of the Union of Federal Road Police in Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Novaes, their demands include a salary increase and greater career recognition.
At present, the position of federal highway patrolman is considered an intermediate level, with a starting salary of R$5,800.
Brazil has seen a series of strikes in the last year, from bus drivers, teachers, and perhaps most alarming was the police strike that threatened Rio’s Carnival in February 2012, and brought chaos to the streets of Salvador, Bahia.
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