MADRID (AP) -- Up to 50,000 people demonstrated Thursday in Madrid to demand greater job protection, in the first of three consecutive days of protests in European cities organized by labor unions.
Banners in the protest, called by the European Trade Union Confederation, read "Against the Crisis, Employment First."
The confederation has called for a second protest Friday in Brussels and protests in Prague and Berlin on May 16. It says other demonstrations will take place later? in Luxembourg, Bucharest and Birmingham.
Thursday's march brought together union representatives and members from all over Spain and from other countries in Europe.
The unions are demanding that government measures to combat the effects of the global economic crisis boost social justice and solidarity, and provide more and safer jobs.
"I'm protesting for employment," said Juan Granados, a 55-year-old Spaniard. "To try to end this crisis and to change a system that favors only employers."
Another protester, Pedro Gomez, 58, said he had recently been laid off by the Iveco trucking manufacturer.
"For months we demanded not to destroy our jobs. I know this crisis is complicated but they could take steps that would allow unemployed people some dignified way out."
After more than a decade of being one of Europe's most top job creators, Spain now has the EU's highest unemployment rate at 17.4 percent and more than 4 million people jobless. Its once booming economy is predicted to shrink by 3 percent this year.