Several hundred employees of German car parts maker Continental have protested in Paris against the closure of a French factory, as company executives met France’s economy minister Christine Lagarde.

The workers, from the company’s Clairoix tyre-manufacturing site in northern France, proceeded through the French capital brandishing, and in some cases burning, tyres, waving flags and chanting slogans including “Continental solidarity.”

The protest came as Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen executives voiced their growing concerns about their crisis-hit suppliers at a senate hearing, according to Reuters.

Employee representatives of the plant, which has 1,120 workers, also met president Nicolas Sarkozy’s social adviser Raymond Soubie.

Continental said its chief executive Karl-Thomas Neumann and board member Nikolai Setzer met Lagarde to assure her the decision to close the site was related to the big drop in tyre sales and the firm hoped the public authorities could help in creating new jobs in the Compiegne area.

The government is pushing for “that closure to be as late as possible” and for Continental “to stick to the commitments it has made,” government spokesman Luc Chatel said.

Continental said it has respected all the commitments made in an earlier agreement on working time but said this pact had contained no guarantees for jobs or the site.

Earlier this month the director of the site was pelted with eggs as he tried to address angry workers. Unions are protesting against the site’s closure as Continental made EUR27m (US$36.44m) in profits in France in 2008.

France’s government has said the announcement of the site closure was not legal, as the company’s central works council was not notified, a fact which is contested by Continental.