Sao Paulo - Workers building and renovating Brazil's stadiums for the 2014 Soccer World Cup are threatening to go on strike if employers don't agree to their demands for unified salaries and benefits.
There have been isolated strikes across the nation, but now the unions representing the workers in each of the 12 host cities are trying to come together to plead for better conditions for everyone.
Union leader Claudio da Silva Gomes said on 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 which venue they are working on.
FIFA has said World Cup preparations are already 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 which need to have stadiums ready for the Confederations Cup next year.
Gomes, a leader at the national union organisation CUT, said they will tell the government and World Cup organisers about their intentions in the coming weeks.
"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," he said. "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 the 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 are already receiving better salaries may not be as strong. Workers in Rio, for example, said they might not even 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 payment.
Gomes said the workers know how important they are to the country's World Cup preparations and want to use that to their benefit.
"The civil construction sector is struggling to find more workers, this is a good opportunity to reach a good deal which eventually can be extended to other construction sectors throughout the country," Gomes said.
Although the negotiations are between the workers and the constructors, the unions also want to include the government in the discussions.
"The construction of these stadiums is a priority for Brazil, the work cannot be stopped, the government needs to get involved," Gomes said.
The local World Cup organising committee and the press office of President Dilma Rousseff said they would not immediately comment on the threat from the unions.
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 by the workers.
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 final of the World Cup and of the Confederations Cup.
The central city of Belo Horizonte also was hit by a brief workers' strike last year.