Spanish trades unions have called for a general strike on 18 April to protest against embattled US auto parts maker Delphi's plans to shut its Puerto Real, Cadiz factory, dismissing 4,500 permanent and temporary workers, a union official told just-auto on Friday.

The move comes as the European Union this week said it would support Spain's efforts to force Delphi to explain exactly why it is closing the site, to provide a viability plan for it and offer layoff compensation to workers - something it has so far refused to do.

The official said Puerto Real's factory employs 2,000 contract workers and 2,500 auxiliary workers and that its closure will mean the loss of an important employer in the largely blue-collar region of southern Spain. The plant supplies Volvo, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Mercedes Benz and Kia.

The general strike will be held in 14 municipalities across the Cadiz Bay, home to the Puerto Real factory.

It will be followed by a major Madrid demonstration and a 24-hour strike in Puerto Real on 29 March.

Those measures follow major industrial actions in recent weeks in which 3,000 people participated in demonstrations.

Today's announcement came after hundreds of workers from Delphi's Sant Cugat del Valles factory in Barcelona took to the streets to decry Puerto Real's planned closure.

Unions plan to hold similar actions every week until the crisis is resolved, the union rep confirmed.

Spanish press quoted government officials as saying they will do everything possible to fix Puerto Real's crisis. Apart from demanding that Delphi come clean about its intentions, they will ask the company to explain how it used millions of euros of European Union aid funds given it to set up in Puerto Real.

Government officials have also reportedly called a meeting with the US embassy in Madrid to discuss the crisis.

Delphi has said Puerto Real's factory has reported losses since 2002 and that its closure stems from its inability to operate it profitably.

Ivan Castano