by Staff Writers
Brasilia (AFP) May 2, 2012
A strike by 7,000 workers seeking better work conditions at a contested dam in Brazil's Amazon region was in its second week Wednesday, despite a court ruling declaring the protest illegal, the consortium in charge of the project said.
A spokesman for the Belo Monte consortium told AFP that judges gave the Sintrapav union until Wednesday to end the strike but noted that the workers defied the court decision.
The stoppage began April 23 with workers demanding a free air fare and a nine-day break to visit their families every three months instead of the current six months. They also want a higher food allowance.
Last week, the strike was declared illegal on the grounds that the union's demands violated the terms of a collective bargaining deal reached only a few months ago.
Sintrapav however said the workers could not resume work because of lack of transport and said they would meet soon to decide on what to do next.
"In agreement with the company, the workers will not have to return to work until next week, but they remain open to a new proposal that can normalize the situation," said union chief Roginel Golgo.
Work on the $11 billion project has come under fire from indigenous groups, environmentalists and local residents since it got under way last June.
With a capacity of 11,200 megawatts, the hydroelectric dam is portrayed by Brazil's government as a key piece of its plan to boost national energy production for one of the world's fastest-growing emerging economies.
It would be the third biggest dam in the world, after China's Three Gorges Dam and the Itaipu Dam on the border between Brazil and Paraguay.
The dam is expected to flood an area of 500 square kilometers (200 square miles) along the Xingu River and displace 16,000 people, according to the government, although some NGOs put the number at 40,000 displaced locals.
In December, a judge revoked his own order to halt work, saying the consortium had shown the dam would not impede local fishing or affect the natural flow of the river.
Indigenous groups fear the dam will harm their way of life, while environmentalists have warned it could lead to deforestation, methane emissions and irreparable changes to the Xingu River's ecosystem.
The government has pledged to minimize the environmental and social impact of the dam and insisted that no traditional indigenous land was to be affected.
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