Balearics protest over Catalan-only healthcare decree

Marchers in Menorca protest Catalan language decree in healthcare sector. Photo: Gemma Andreu / Periódico de Ibiza
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► Marchers protest linguistic decree affecting healthcare workers ►

Thousands of protesters gathered in the capital city of the Mediterranean island of Menorca on Sunday to demonstrate against a decree by the Socialist-led regional government of the Balearic Islands that all healthcare workers in the islands must now speak fluent Catalan or lose their jobs.

Decreed in November under pressure from the Balearic’s Catalan-nationalist Més per Mallorca movement, which is the junior partner in the regional governing coalition led by Balearics President Francina Armengol of the Socialist party (PSIB-PSOE), the new measure was opposed by the local chapters of almost all healthcare workers’ unions in the islands and all eight former directors of IB Salut, the Balearics’ regional healthcare system.

The demonstration, which police said was attended by 1,500 people but supporters said rallied nearly double that number, was organized by a new platform called Ens Movem (Catalan for ‘Let’s get going!’) under the slogan, “Languages don’t save lives! For a healthcare system without linguistic borders“. The protest drew on the growing ire in the Balearics over the decree, which elevates complete fluency in Catalan from its previous status as an incentive toward higher pay and promotions to an absolute requirement for healthcare workers to retain their employment.

The Balearics government issued the decree as part of the drive for “linguistic normalization” in the Balearics, which like its counterpart of the same name in Catalonia rewards individuals and businesses that speak and use Catalan and places non-Catalan speakers at a distinct disadvantage. As part of the governing coalition, Més per Mallorca controls the vice-Presidency and the ministries of Healthcare, Social Services and Culture & Sports, seen as key areas by the nationalist party for promoting the linguistic dominance of Catalan in the islands.

According to Miguel Lázaro, president of Balearics Medical Union (Simebal), the decree will impact as many as 340 junior doctors, 3,500 nurses and 1,000 medical assistants who have not yet reached a level of Catalan proficiency that ensures they remain in their jobs. Critics of the measure point to the immediate resignations of doctors and other healthcare workers in the aftermath of the decree’s passage as evidence that it will ultimately cause an exodus of otherwise qualified healthcare workers from the islands.

► Read More in Spanish at Periódico de Ibiza, Diario de Mallorca and El Mundo …

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