Madrid.— Hundreds of thousands of people protested across Spain on Sunday against reforms to the labour market they fear will destroy workers' rights and spending cuts they say are destroying the welfare state. Organisers, including the two largest unions Comisiones Obreras and UGT, said as many as half a million people joined the protest in 57 towns and cities, although Spanish police gave no official estimate. In Madrid, one of the largest protests since the economic crisis began almost five years ago filled the wide boulevards from the Atocha train station up to the central Sol square with loud but peaceful marchers of all ages. “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,” university researcher Nacho Foche, 27, said. Spain's new conservative government began its four-year term in December with tax hikes and spending cuts worth around 15 billion euros ($19.74 billion) and must cut another around 40 billion to meet tough deficit targets set by the EU. It has also passed reforms in the financial sector, which force banks to recognise property sector losses, and the labour market, which grant companies greater hiring and firing power.

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