Thousands of people across Spain joined May Day demonstrations yesterday, including around 40,000 in Barcelona, according to trade union sources, although the Guardia Urbana put the number at closer to 8,000 (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). The main trade unions, CCOO and UGT, said that yesterday's protests to mark the International Day of the Worker had been the most numerous of recent years, and that they focused on the current problem with jobs and the ineffectiveness as they see it of the Socialist government in tackling the alarming rise in unemployment; the latest figures on the number of people out of work in Spain show that close to five million people are now unemployed here. One demonstration organised for yesterday by the unions in the centre of Barcelona, travelled from Plaça Urquinaona to Plaça de la Catedral where a manifesto in support of employment and against labour vulnerability was read out. At the start of the protest, union leaders called for a change in government policy regarding proposed budget cuts to make sure that the worst effects of the spending changes didn't fall on workers.
FC Barcelona is ever closer to winning the Spanish league following a Saturday in which both they and their closest rivals Real Madrid lost their respective matches (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). While Madrid surprisingly lost at home to Zaragoza, 2-3, Barça threw away victory at Real Sociedad, letting their opponents back into a game that was practically won close to the end, with a final score of 2-1 to the San Sebastian side. This means that this season, Barça has now lost twice in 34 games and leaves them eight points clear at the top of the table with four matches still to be played. The defeat in the Basque country carried a message as well as "a big lesson", the latter according to Barça trainer Pep Guardiola, in the face of the upcoming Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou tomorrow. Last week's 0-2 victory for Barça in the first leg hasn't guaranteed their place in the final, said Guardiola, and tomorrow's meeting will be "hard, very hard," he warned. He had taken a team of substitutes with him to San Sebastian for his starting line-up, as well as three young players from the Barça B team. As a result of Saturday's defeat, Barça won't be able to set a new record of matches without loss in the Spanish league; the team had played 31 games without being beaten and were closing in on the record set by Real Socieded of 32 matches without loss in the 1979-80 season.
Three departments of the Generalitat will see budget cuts this year of more than 20 percent to compensate smaller cuts in other areas (read article in Catalan here, Avui). The ministries of Territory and Sustainability, Economy and Finances, and Presidency are all due to see above-average spending restrictions to make up for shortfalls in departments such as Education, Health and Social Welfare and Family, which will see cuts of less than the required 10 percent. The news of this development came yesterday from the president of the parliamentary group for the governing Convergència i Unió party, Oriol Pujol, in an interview with Agència Catalana de Notícies. The move is said to show that, despite opposition criticism of spending cuts that are "indiscriminate" and "without criteria", the Catalan government does actually have a serious plan with regards dealing with its budget deficit. Pujol also said that another area that would see smaller cuts would be the Interior department, viewed by Convergència as a key area for keeping the Catalan welfare system functioning adequately. The Economy Department started last week to reveal the key sections of the Generalitat's accounts for 2011, with 70 percent of the budget earmarked for Education, Health and Social Welfare (a rise of two percent compared to the spending of the previous coalition government).