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Originally published Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at 11:01 AM

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Workers building WCup stadium remain on strike

Workers building a World Cup stadium in northeastern Brazil decided to remain on strike Wednesday to demand better pay and improved benefits.

AP Sports Writer

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SAO PAULO —

Workers building a World Cup stadium in northeastern Brazil decided to remain on strike Wednesday to demand better pay and improved benefits.

The strike in Fortaleza entered its second week after workers rejected an offer made by the construction companies involved in the project.

Workers in the northeast city of Natal also refused to return to work on Wednesday despite losing a court decision ordering them to halt their 10-day strike, according to local media.

The construction companies in Fortaleza said they were disappointed with the workers' decision to continue the strike and said the work stoppage could eventually delay the stadium's completion.

The union representing the workers said they will not return to work at the Castelao stadium until a better offer is made.

World Cup organizers said recently that the Castelao is the stadium closest to being finished, with 60 percent of work completed. It will host six 2014 World Cup matches and will be a venue at the Confederations Cup next year.

The construction companies Galvao Engenharia and Andrade Mendonca said they offered workers pay raises that ranged between 14 percent and 21 percent, depending on their position. They said the offer was higher than the estimated inflation in Brazil.

"The workers said it was not enough and didn't accept that percentage offered by the companies," union representative Arquimedes Fortes told The Associated Press.

He said workers also want an improved health care plan, better overtime conditions and a share of the companies' profits.

"We deeply lament the (workers') decision to continue the strike," the companies said in a statement. "All efforts are being made to solve the problem."

The strike began April 4 and both sides have been negotiating since then to try to reach an agreement.

Galvao Engenharia and Andrade Mendonca reiterated their commitment to finish the stadium by the end of this year, but said the strike could eventually cause delays.

"We want to make it very clear that if the stoppage continues, it could compromise the ability to (finish the work) by that date, causing irreparable damages," they said.

In Natal, a local court said the workers must return to the construction site but they decided to continue on strike to demand better salaries, the Diario de Natal daily said. The Arena das Dunas stadium was one of the last to start being built and only a little more than 20 percent of the work is completed. The stadium will host four World Cup matches.

There have been other workers' strikes at several World Cup venues, including at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, the Fonte Nova in Salvador, the Mineirao in Belo Horizonte and the Arena Pernambuco in Recife.

The Brazilian government said earlier this month that construction at 2014 World Cup stadiums was on schedule in all 12 host cities, although only five stadiums had more than 50 percent of work completed.

In addition to Fortaleza, three other cities are set to host matches in the Confederations Cup - Belo Horizonte, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro. FIFA will decide in June whether the northeastern cities of Recife and Salvador will be included in the warmup competition.

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