BBVA employees protest against planned job cuts in Madrid. | JUAN MEDINA

Hundreds of BBVA employees took to the streets across Spain on Monday to protest plans by the country's second-biggest bank to cut around 16% of its staff in its home market.
BBVA said last month that it was planning to cut 3,800 jobs and close almost a quarter of its branches, to adapt to a customer shift towards online banking.

The rallies in Madrid, Barcelona and smaller cities as far-flung as the islands of Gran Canaria and Mallorca follow calls from the government to rein in top bankers' wages as the sector plans layoffs.

The Comisiones Obreras union, which called for the protest on Monday, said 6,000 took part.

In central Madrid, Ana Maria Rodriguez, who has worked at BBVA for five years, came to march with her three year-old daughter in a pram because she could not afford a babysitter.

"We came to defend our jobs, because behind every number there is a family," she said. "We are not just numbers, we are people, and all of us have come to fight for what we are, for our work."

Lenders in Spain have been cutting costs, either alone or through tie-ups, as rock-bottom interest rates strangle their profits.

Last month, Caixabank, now Spain's largest domestic bank after buying rival Bankia, announced plans to cut around 8,000 jobs, one of the biggest staff reductions in the country's history.

Since the end of October, five Spanish lenders have announced close to 18,000 job cuts and more are expected.

Despite halving its bank branches since the financial crisis in 2008, Spain still has one of the densest banking networks in the world, with nearly 50 branches per 100,000 adults.

The number of bank employees has already fallen by almost 35% compared to December 2019, according to the Bank of Spain.