A national strike has idled most car factories in Spain, Europe's third-largest auto manufacturer, as workers protest against the government's labour reform and economic policies which they claim are sticking the country into a deeper recession.

In a statement, top union CCOO said most night shift workers went on strike, idling Renault, Citroen, Nissan, Ford, Peugeot, GM, Seat, Volkswagen, Mercedes and Iveco-Pegaso's factories, which help the industry churn out some 1.5m cars a year.

General Motors' 7,500 worker Figuerelas, Zaragoza, factory was expected to follow the initiative 100%, union officials said, adding that all except one factory door was closed, and that was where an information stand was located.

In Vigo, where PSA Peugeot Citroen has a 7,000 worker factory, production was also stopped with staff on strike, unions said.

David Barrientos, spokesman for manufacturers' federation Anfac, said it was too early to assess the strike's impact. However, he said many workers likely showed up to work but were unable to get in because of union pickets.

"If 10% of a factory's staff is missing, production can stop," he said. "That doesn't mean that everyone hasn't gone and tried to work."

Spanish unions are up in arms about the government's labour reforms which they claim has stripped workers of benefits and won't help cut the nation's 20% unemployment rate. They are also protesting against the government's pension and other economic policies which they claim is pushing Spain deeper into recession.

In a Wednesday (29 September) afternoon update, unions said some 70% or 10m of the country's salaried workers were obeying the strike, branding it a "democratic success". They added follow-up rates were higher than the last such event in June 2002. Employer federations and the government, however, said the work day was proceeding with "full normality" especially in the retail sector. They refused to comment on follow-up statistics, saying they would not play a "numbers war."