Seat’s angry workers have downed tools.

After weeks of unfruitful negotiations to prevent a 10% wages cut at the car maker’s largest, 12,000-worker factory in Martorell, unions have called for a series of three-and-a-quarter hour strikes at the facility and other production centres in Barcelona’s Zona Franca industrial strip.

They have also threatened to launch a 24-hour strike “if necessary.”

Seat argues that the cuts are necessary to offset high costs from an excess of 1,400 workers at Martorell and the nearby production centres (which employ nearly 2,000). Hurt by slumping demand for its cars, Seat plans to slash 2005 production to 390,000 units from original estimates of 446,000 units.

About 5,000 workers joined protests at Martorell on Thursday (27 October). Most supported a three-hour stoppage for the morning shift, Lolo Galvez, Seat’s secretary general for Spanish union CCOO told just-auto.

Martorell workers will strike for an additional seven hours on Thursday while counterparts at three Zona Franca production centres will down tools for an accumulated 21 hours, he noted.

Unions want Seat to preserve the jobs or, “as a last resort,” dismiss 3,400 workers of pre-retirement age, “but we are introducing a cocktail of other industrial and job flexibility measures which we hope they’ll agree to,” Galvez said.

He explained that Seat is proposing the salary cuts for the entire 16,000 workers. It wants workers to accept a 21-day reduction in their yearly work schedule, a measure which translates into a 10% wage cut.

If they don’t negotiate on our terms “we are going to launch heavier actions including a 24-hour strike”, Galvez threatened.

Seat did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Ivan Castano