Reuters

Sanitation workers went on strike during the big event, leaving the streets covered in trash.

Rio celebrated its first night of Carnival last Friday, and revelers woke up the next morning to the same garbage they'd created the night before. It hasn't gotten much better since.

The workers of the city's Municipal Urban Cleaning Company went on strike at the beginning of the week-long, annual celebration. According to the Rio Times, the sanitation workers were demanding salary increases and overtime pay for weekends and holidays.

The local Labor Court declared the strike illegal. But though unions complied, officially, many workers refused to return to work. More than one thousand sanitation workers marched down city streets Saturday before clashing with police. On Sunday, hundreds showed up in front of City Hall to criticize Comlurb and Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes. 

Comlurb announced Monday that they'd agreed to a nine percent salary increase and that they'd fire 300 employees for not coming to work that day, according to the Rio Times.

Despite the court order and Carnival's Wednesday end, Rio's streets haven't gotten much cleaner. Mayor Paes says sanitation workers who have returned to the job have been facing threats from those remaining on strike. On Thursday, Bloomberg reports, workers were escorted by military police during their shifts for safety. And they're still playing catch-up from a week where an estimated five million people gathered around the city to party.

Comlurb officials tell Reuters that they aren't sure when Rio's streets will be completely clean again, adding that once they've settled with the remaining strikers, it should take a full three days to get everything back to normal.

For a country that has seen its share of civil unrest in the last year as its government pours money into the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, a highly visible disruption like this week's garbage strike could easily happen again. For now, Brazil's second largest city is more worried about getting rid of the smell along its streets and beaches today:

Left: A pedestrian passes through garbage on the pavement in the Lapa neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro March 5, 2014. Right: Garbage is seen on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro March 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Sergio Moraes)
A man walks through garbage strewn on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro March 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Sergio Moraes)
Garbage strewn on a pavement in front of the Arcos da Lapa water duct in Rio de Janeiro March 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Sergio Moraes) 
A woman walks past garbage strewn on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro March 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Sergio Moraes) 
(REUTERS/Sergio Moraes)
Revellers perform next to garbage strewn on the pavement in Rio's Lapa neighborhood, March 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Sergio Moraes)
Garbage is seen on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro March 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Sergio Moraes)

Top image: Residents walk near a dustbin filled with garbage on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro March 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Sergio Moraes)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    CityLab University: Induced Demand

    When traffic-clogged highways are expanded, new drivers quickly materialize to fill them. What gives? Here’s how “induced demand” works.

  2. a photo of the Eiffel Tower with the words "Made for Sharing" projected on it
    Life

    How France Tries to Keep English Out of Public Life

    France has a long history of using official institutions to protect the French language from outside influence. Still, English keeps working its way in.

  3. an aerial view of Los Angeles shows the complex of freeways, new construction, familiar landmarks, and smog in 1962.
    Transportation

    The Problem With Amazon’s Cheap Gas Stunt

    The company promoted its TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with a day of throwback 1959-style prices in Los Angeles. What could go wrong?

  4. An illustration of a turtle with a city on its shell
    Transportation

    Why Speed Kills Cities

    U.S. cities are dropping urban speed limits in an effort to boost safety and lower crash rates. But the benefits of less-rapid urban mobility don’t end there.  

  5. Berlin's Friedrichstrasse will test a car ban starting in October 2019.
    Transportation

    Why Berlin’s Approach to Car Bans Is a Little Different

    The German capital will experiment with banning cars on two popular retail streets—but it’s being notably more cautious than its European counterparts.

×