By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Around 100,000 people, mainly unionized workers, in over 150 cities across Brazil staged strikes on Thursday. Protesters in all of the country’s states, plus the Federal District, took to the streets to demand better working conditions and public services.

Unions Stir Brazil Protest Movement, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
As President Rousseff struggles to push through reforms, union-led protests on São Paulo’s Avenida Paulista reminded her of the country’s ongoing discontent, photo by Ben Tavener.

The “National Day of Struggles,” which was organized by the country’s main unions, saw ports, roads and some public services disrupted, including schools and banks in major cities, as protesters clashed with police in Rio.

The rallies drew some of the biggest crowds since mass protests spread across the country in June, which have apparently subsided to allow the government to address key demands.

At least 5,000 were reported to have joined rallies in Rio de Janeiro and 7,000 took to the streets of central São Paulo. Some 8,000 people protested in Natal and around 2,000 in Brasília, according to reports.

Key ports, including Santos – the biggest in South America, ground to a near standstill as dockworkers joined a 24-hour strike. At least 80 highways were blocked by protesters in at least 18 states during the day, which the Ministry of Justice said would be cleared “through dialogue” or “by force.”

Many cities saw disruptions to bus and metro services, but a vote averted strike action which had threatened to shut down São Paulo’s bus and train systems. Protesters on Avenida Paulista in São Paulo held aloft banners with a variety of grievances, many reminiscent of those voiced during the June protests, including demands for improved public services and political reforms, as well as anger over World Cup expenditures.

However, the unions have added new, specific demands to these, including a shorter, 40-hour work week, demands over pension rights and an end to oil field auctions. Some commentators have said the unions are attempting to reignite and lead a new wave of mass; others say the unions are simply flexing their muscles at a time of protest.

Read more (in Portuguese).

* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.

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