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Spain protests: Hundreds of thousands march against labor reforms

Hundreds of thousands marched against labor reforms passed by Spain's new conservative government.

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MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 19: Protesters pass Plaza Cibeles square during a march by thousands of demonstrators against the government's new labour reform law on February 19, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. According to reports, the reforms have prompted marches in 57 cities, as the government seeks to revive the ailing economy and tackle the jobless rate of nearly 23 percent, the highest in the Eurozone. (Denis Doyle/AFP/Getty Images)

Hundreds of thousands of protesters demonstrated in Spain on Sunday against austerity measures and changes to labor laws that would make it easier for companies to fire employees, reported the Associated Press.

Marches were organized by Spain’s largest trade unions in 57 cities, starting in the morning in Cordoba and expected to end in evening marches in Toledo and Valencia. Official figures have not been released, but union organizers said around a million people had marched by mid-afternoon, according to the AP.

The BBC reported that trade unions said half a million protesters marched in Madrid, whereas police estimated the turnout at 50,000.

Spain’s El Pais reported that the motto of the protests was “no to the labor reform that is unfair to workers, inefficient for the economy and useless for jobs,” according to the BBC.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government, which came into power in December, passed reforms recently that make it easier for employers to cut wages and fire workers, said the Guardian.

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The reforms are part of an effort to create jobs and tackle Spain’s 23 percent unemployment rate. Rajoy told a party conference on Sunday, "When we designed this reform we were thinking of the people who are out of work, who see no future,” the Guardian reported.

One of the protesters, Nacho Foche, a university researcher, told Reuters, “Contracts are getting worse every year. They say they want to invest in the future while cutting research budgets. They're not looking to the future but to the next election with cuts dictated from Brussels.”

The conservative government implemented tax hikes and spending cuts worth $19.74 billion and will have to cut another $52 billion to meet European Union deficit targets, according to Reuters.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/spain/120219/spain-protests-hundreds-thousands-march-against-labor-refo