ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON
SAO PAULO (AP) -- Employees at Brazil's consulates began a two-day strike Tuesday that affected visa services in major cities in the United States and Europe just weeks before the World Cup.
Local employees at Brazilian diplomatic offices said they hoped to pressure the government to increase their pay and other compensation, arguing the government has frozen their salaries in the past years.
Brazil's Foreign Ministry said the Tuesday-Wednesday strike was only slowing operations at nine consulates and one embassy, but did not say which ones. The Association of Local Employees at Brazilian Foreign Missions said strikes or protests were hitting 17 cities in North America and Europe, including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Toronto, London, Paris and Rome.
Some consulates posted a message on their websites saying they were responding only to emergency requests made by Brazilian nationals. Brazil's consulates have been issuing for free a special category of visa for tourists visiting Brazil for soccer's World Cup that begins June 12. Applicants need to have tickets for a match.
Marcia Ramos, a representative of the association, said it has 1,800 members in more than 50 Brazilian diplomatic offices around the world, but she said it wasn't yet clear how many were participating in the strike
"Our demand is simple: They need to replace the lost wages they have not raised in recent years," Ramos said in an email.
The foreign ministry said its contracts with local employees adhere to the laws of the countries where consulates are located, arguing there is no way to negotiate collectively.
"They have every right to sue in court if there are any legal problems," the ministry said in a statement. "We have no record of any employee that has filed such legal claims."
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