THOUSANDS of campaigners have joined a protest against the planned closure of the Altadis cigarette factory in Logroño, in the northern region of La Rioja.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs could go in an area with little other opportunities for stable employment, and workers who are facing redundancy say they are going to 'fight to the bitter end' against what they call a 'total injustice'.
Members of the public joined Altadis employees at around 19.00hrs on Saturday in the El Espolón area of the city to support their demonstration, which saw an estimated 4,000 people carrying banners, chanting and blowing whistles.
Some wore T-shirts to match the banners they carried, reading: “Altadis will not close.”
They blocked off the C/ Vara de Rey completely for several minutes.
Staff committee chairman Luis Enrique Medina said it was 'unacceptable' for 'a product which is ours, and factories which are in our territory' to be bought by outsiders intending to carry out exactly the same production work elsewhere.
“It's totally surreal,” Medina told reporters.
“A multi-national company cannot simply take away what's ours, close us down, leave us without jobs or industry in our region, and then use the government's labour reform to threaten us – because what is patently clear is that the PP's labour reform hugely protects multi-national firms, but does not protect employees at all.”
Medina says staff are now entering into 'different phases of negotiation' about the pending redundancies, and considers they all 'need more time to talk things through' but that these 'negotiations' are merely delaying tactics.
“It's a hidden strategy that we know nothing about, and it's high time they stopped lying to us,” he stated.
“We want to know what the truth behind the plant closure really is – this is a drastic and unnecessary decision, and doesn't need to be this quick, either.”
The Altadis plant in the Agoncillo area is set to shut down for good on June 30, leaving 471 staff members on the dole.
And with two-thirds off the tobacco processed in the Agoncillo factory being grown and harvested in the western region of Extremadura, at least another 10,000 families there will be out of work.
“We need responses nationally, and even from the European Union,” says Medina.
Once the Altadis factory closes, Spain will have no more cigarette-production plants left.