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Police and striking Fiat workers clashed at a car plant in southern Italy on Monday, injuring nine people as a labour dispute halted virtually all of the group’s vehicle production in the country.

According to Reuters citing union representatives, seven strikers were hurt when police tried to clear a picket line at the Melfi plant with a truncheon charge.

Two police officials were injured by stones thrown by the protestors as one bus managed to break through the line, the report added.

Reuters said workers from one union at Melfi are demanding better pay and shift patterns and their strike has hit Fiat – shutting down 95% of car production, according to an industrial source – just as it tries to tackle a deep sales crisis.

The blockade at Melfi has prevented parts from getting to other plants in Italy where most of Fiat’s cars are made, the report noted.

A union official told Reuters more than 1,000 protestors were gathered outside the plant while a police official said there were “certainly more than 100” and authorities were sending reinforcements in a bid to allow employees who wanted to work to enter the plant.

“There is not a trace of a worker inside, everything is closed. There is no one there apart from a couple of managers who cannot re-start production,” the official reportedly said.

Reuters said three other unions representing workers at Melfi struck a preliminary agreement with Fiat on Friday.

An Alfa Romeo plant in Pomigliano, near Naples, became the last Fiat plant in Italy to be halted by the dispute and a car plant in nearby Cassino was due to close on Monday afternoon. The Cassino factory had only restarted work hours earlier after two weeks of temporary layoffs, called as part of Fiat’s struggle to pull itself from its worst ever financial crisis, Reuters said.

“The union clash is worrying because it is a challenge during a difficult phase for the company,” Bruno Tabacci, head of an industry commission in parliament, told Reuters, adding: “The baby must not be thrown out with the bath water. Both sides must realise what is at stake.”

The FIOM-CGIL metalworkers union, which is involved in the dispute with Fiat, called on Monday for a four-hour nationwide strike on Wednesday, Reuters added.