On the day that vaccinations against swine flu start in Catalunya, it’s been revealed that two percent of Catalans have already been affected by the pandemic (article in Catalan, Avui). Only last week, according to the Generalitat’s Health Minister Marina Geli, 35,000 new cases were registered here, the large majority of them amongst children and teenagers. Speaking on Catalan television this morning, Geli also sought to reassure the public about the low risk of mortality from swine flu in the face of two recent deaths where the victims hadn’t suffered any underlying illness. Some 20 percent of the Catalan population could be vaccinated from today, including members of the emergency services, pregnant women and people who’ve suffered from associated illness for more than six months.
Controversy has arisen regarding the restructuring proposed as part of the fusion of the savings banks Caixa Catalunya, Caixa Tarragona and Caixa Manresa (article in Castilian, El Periodico). Around 1,400 people are expected to be offered early retirement and some 400 more will be given the chance to take voluntary redundancy as part of the merger process, which is equivalent to around 20 percent of the overall staff of the three banks. However, the trade unions involved with the negotiations over the future of those affected have expressed their opposition to the current restructure plan, which they consider to be excessive. As the plan stands, any employee aged 55 and above next year will be offered early retirement with financial compensation of 70 percent of their final salary up to 62 years; this means that employees will receive an average of €270,000 between leaving work and official retirement, along with €120,000 from the company’s pension plan. However, these averages are based on the current salaries paid to the best-paid workers, who are those from Caixa Catalunya.
Generalitat president José Montilla has started negotiating with the White House over a proposed visit by US president Barack Obama to Catalunya next year (article in Castilian, La Vanguardia). Obama is due to visit Spain in May 2010, as part of an EU-US summit taking place in Madrid during the six months that Spain will hold the presidency of the EU. As such, Montilla is hoping that in the organisation of the trip by Washington, time can be found for Obama to visit Barcelona and, specifically, the Generalitat. The preliminary talks have started with a representative from the Generalitat making an approach to the White House team. Obama has previously talked about a visit to the Catalan capital when he was a young man and expressed his desire to return at some point. Barcelona mayor Jordi Hereu has already sent a letter of invitation to the US president.
Also in the news: Man dies after jumping to escape fire in Raval building (Avui); Boat fair ends with more sales than expected (La Vanguardia)