MADRID (AP) -- Workers at automaker SEAT have voted to accept a pay freeze this year in the hope that German parent company Volkswagen will start production of one of its new models in Spain and avert job losses, union officials said Thursday.
The proposal was accepted by 65.5 percent of the 11,800 SEAT staff in three plants in the northeastern region of Catalonia, the General Union of Workers said.
Union spokesman Matias Carnero said the vote was aimed at persuading Volkswagen to bring production of the Audi Q3 model to SEAT's Martorell plant outside Barcelona.
"If this does not happen it will be a serious blow for Spain's auto sector, especially in Catalonia," Carnero told The Associated Press by telephone.
He said Volkswagen was expected to make a decision in the next two weeks.
No one at SEAT was immediately available for comment Thursday. News reports say the company had set a pay freeze as one of the conditions for bringing production of the new car to Spain.
SEAT, and other manufacturers such as Ford and General Motors, have announced job and production cuts in Spain in recent months owing to a major falloff in car sales.
Spain last month approved a euro4.1 billion ($5.3 billion) stimulus package for the sector, one of several by European countries, which has yet to be approved by the European Union.
Spain's economy, among the fastest-growing in Europe over the past decade, has been hit hard by the international crisis, with unemployment the highest in Europe at nearly 14 percent.