Spain's unions to stage countrywide protests

Protestors march as they hold banners reading, 'No financial cuts' during a demonstration against regional government-imposed austerity plans to restructure and part-privatize health care sector in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012. Madrid proposes selling off the management of six of 20 public hospitals and 27 of 268 health centers. Spain's regions are struggling with a combined debt of €145 billion ($190 billion) as the country's economy contracts into a double-dip recession triggered by a 2008 real estate crash. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

MADRID (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to pack the streets of Spanish cities in evening protests against the conservative government's anti-crisis austerity measures.

The demonstrations Monday have been called by the main labor unions and dozens of social groups. They are to take place in 55 cities. Union leaders are to head what is expected to be the largest march in Madrid.

Cutbacks in health, education and pensions as well as labor and financial sector reforms have angered Spaniards and triggered protests by nearly every sector of society in recent years.

The demonstrations are the first coordinated ones since unions staged a partially successful general strike Nov. 14.

Spain, with 25 percent unemployment, is battling to reduce its deficit and emerge from its second recession in three years.