The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Spanish banks meet unions to discuss huge layoffs, protests planned

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MADRID - Representatives of two of Spain's biggest banks are meeting with labour unions to discuss massive layoffs, hours ahead of protests by bank workers in seven cities.

Officials of Bankia, the nationalized lender which has received a bailout of €18 billion ($24 billion) from the 17 European Union countries that use the euro, met unions Wednesday to negotiate shedding some 6,000 staff. Unions representing Bankia workers have called evening protests in Madrid and six other cities.

Santander, Spain's biggest bank, was also to hold talks with unions to discuss restructuring following its absorption of sister bank Banesto. Unions fear the plan could affect some 3,000 workers.

The talks came a day after the European Union said Spain's unemployment rate in November was 26. 6 per cent, the highest in the region.

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