ISTANBUL (Reuters) -- Production was halted at Fiat's joint venture factory in Turkey on Monday as a labor protest over working conditions that hit Renault last week widened.
Workers began the protest late on Thursday at Renault's joint venture plant in Bursa. The protest spread to Fiat's Tofas factory. Together the two automakers account for more than 40 percent of Turkey's annual car output, according to industry data.
A statement from Tofas on Monday said the company had halted production at its plant, also in Bursa, until the labor action is resolved. Tofas said it did not expect the stoppage to affect sales.
Renault’s plant builds the Clio and Symbol subcompacts, as well as the Megane and Fluence compacts, according to Automotive News Europe's Guide to European Assembly Plants. The factory produced about 318,000 cars last year, industry association figures show.
Fiat builds the Fiat Linea, Doblo and Fiorino models, along with the Citroen Nemo, Peugeot Bipper and Opel/Vauxhall Combo at the Tofas factory. The plant produced 240,000 vehicles in 2013, according to its website.
The industrial action is a potential headache for the Turkish government, which guided the economy through years of rapid expansion but now faces slowing growth and stubborn unemployment as it prepares for a June 7 parliamentary election.
Union officials have said the actions amount to protests, but stopped short of formally declaring strikes.
An Oyak Renault spokesman said the protest had reached a point where it posed "a serious danger" to the auto sector. The Turkish Metal Industries Employers' Association and manufacturers in the sector are holding talks to resolve the dispute, he said.
The protests highlight what critics call one of the contradictions of Turkey's economic progress - that years of rapid growth have not been accompanied by a significant improvement in working conditions.
About 40 percent of Turkish employees work 50 or more hours a week, the highest among the more than 30 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
An improvement in working conditions is necessary for Turkey to move toward a more European-style society, said Halil Karaveli, an academic and the managing editor of The Turkey Analyst. "Turkey is second only to China when it comes to work-related accidents. You have an environment where businesses also have to make concessions to labor."