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Protest in Palma over 'compulsory catalán' for medical staff
A MASS protest with over 2,500 people has taken over the centre of Palma de Mallorca over the requirement for anyone working in the health service to be able to speak the regional language.
Balearic tongues – Ibicuenco, Menorquín and Mallorquín – belong to the same family as catalán, which is spoken in Catalunya and valenciano, spoken in the three eastern provinces of Valencia, Castellón and Alicante.
In all these areas – along with the Basque Country and Galicia, which also have co-official languages, euskera and galego – anyone working in the public sector has to show certificates to prove they are fluent in these tonuges, even if they are native Spanish-speakers, given that all residents have the right to communicate and be communicated with in the vernacular if they wish.
But the Palma protesters say 'languages do not save lives, medical knowledge does', and are calling for a health service 'without linguistic barriers'.
The Balearic Island regional government is about to pass a Bill of Law which requires catalán, the basis of the three regional languages, to be a prerequisite for practising as a doctor, nurse, hospital porter or medical admin or reception employee.
Auxiliary nurses must be able to speak, read, write and understand catalán to level A2 – about the equivalent of a good GCSE grade – and doctors and nurses to grade B1, roughly A-level or first-year undergraduate standard.
In other regions, however, the bar is set even higher: Valencia requires public-sector employees to show proof of linguistic competence to level C1, or honours degree standard.
Formal exams at B1 and above are often extremely difficult for native speakers, since linguistic standards often do not match those used in everyday conversation.
Úrsula Mascaró – whose late father Jaime Mascaró was an internationally-famous shoe designer, and who also creates top-of-the-range footwear under her own name – headed up the march along with fellow businesswoman Manuela Cañadas and coordinator of the civil association Mos Movem, En Marcha, Let's Go, Joan Pons.
All three say competence in the catalán language should be considered a 'merit' or a 'bonus', but should not be a standard requirement for any profession.
Regional medical union SIMEBAL (Sindicato Médico de Baleares) and the State-wide public sector union CSI·F, along with current regional leaders of the right-wing PP party, Biel Company and centre-right Ciudadanos, Xavier Pericay joined in.
Medical staff who pass their oposiciones, or public sector exams which must be taken upon applying, but do not have the required level of catalán will be given two years to reach that standard and, if they do not, will be denied promotions, relocations and any type of progression in their careers, which will also limit their pay scales.
Photograph by the PP in Palma on Twitter
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