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Vodafone adds to Spain corporate job cull with 620 dismissals

By Clare Kane

MADRID (Reuters) - Mobile phone operator Vodafone said it had reached agreement with labor unions to lay off 620 workers at its recession-hit Spanish unit, adding to a list of job cuts in Spain's hard-hit economy.

Many companies in Spain, where the unemployment rate already stands at 26 percent, are laying off staff to cut costs. The ruling centre-right government, in the midst an austerity drive to slash its deficit, has introduced measures to make hiring and firing easier.

Vodafone's job cuts are less than the maximum of 1,000 jobs initially expected, but is in line with the reduced figure of 650 which unions said last month the company was seeking.

"The agreement reached limits the number of job cuts to 620, while some services may be outsourced, affecting up to 130 jobs," Vodafone said in a statement after negotiations finished on Thursday.

The London-listed company, which employs around 4,000 people in Spain, said working conditions for 150 workers would also change and that 400 staff would no longer receive tax-free luncheon vouchers.

It said lay-offs were necessary to support the "viability" of the company and free up funds for investments in infrastructure and networks.

Elsewhere in Spain, airline Iberia faces strikes this month and in March as workers protest against plans to slash over 3,000 jobs.

Bailed-out lender Bankia also agreed to pare back redundancies targeted in a restructuring, although it is still cutting more than 4,000 jobs.

Spain's telecoms sector has suffered from depressed consumer confidence in a prolonged recession, with clients cutting back on spending and switching to cheap virtual operators, which rent network capacity from established operators.

Vodafone wrote down the value of its businesses in Spain and Italy by 5.9 billion pounds ($9.2 billion) in November.

It is weighing a bid for Germany's Kabel Deutschland to expand its services in the country, which is in better shape economically than its battered southern peers.

(Reporting by Clare Kane; Editing by David Holmes)

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