Spanish supplier, Gestamp, is urging unions in France to adapt to modern economic realities as the struggles of the European automotive sector continue to pose significant challenges.

"I am much more worried about the French unions than the Spanish unions," Gestamp president and CEO, Francisco Jose Riberas, told just-auto on the sidelines of the European Automotive Congress in the northern Spanish city of Bilbao organised by European Conference Management.

"In Spain, we have done a very good job and are improving. In France there are big problems - bigger problems than here in Spain.

"Today the volumes in France are low and it will be difficult to recover these volumes in France. There is a need to restructure in France [and] there is not enough discussion in French society about this - French unions are not flexible."

Speaking at the same conference in Spain, SEAT purchasing EVP, Dieter Seemann, echoed the need for organised labour adaptability as key to business profitablity.

"Unions need to learn we either survive or we lose," said Seemann. "In Seat we are on a good route as we have fairly good cooperation with the unions.

"In Seat we have the benefit of having one union - a lot of suppliers have three or more unions - that makes it difficult.

"From my point of view, it is very necessary to have the unions to fight for the interests of the workers and only a satisfied worker can do an excellent job."