A new school year starts today for over 1.2 million Catalan students but arguments and protests mark its beginning (read article in Castilian here, El Pais). The new term will be met with protests from trade unions and parent associations over cuts, delayed arrivals of computer equipment and organisational problems over holidays. One of the main points of contention is with the delay in computer equipment - of the 606 schools which give lessons on laptops, a quarter will not be able to do so today. The education department had advised them by letter in early June that they would be able to start the laptop conversions once the term started but to not throw away textbooks until they had their internet connection. However the CCOO and the UGT trade unions and some centres have reported delays in the arrival of computers and say that today, some schools will start without the appropriate equipment and no teaching material. This will also be the first term in which the Semana blanca (White week) will come into place. This is a compulsory school break during the term. Some areas will take it between February 28th and March 4th whilst others from March 7th to 11th. This is to take the place of the jornada intensive which has been terminated. Many schools had the option of starting earlier to finish earlier in the month of June. The decision to stop this practice have sparked protests from trade unions, who say that these days are usually very hot in the classroom. Teachers are also facing wage cuts from between €900 and €1900 between June and December this year.
Taxi drivers have warned of the possibility of strikes in October over pending reforms (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Problems over the delay in reforms include the implication of the examination of Catalan and Castilian for aspiring drivers from non-Hispanic speaking countries which had been promised to take effect in September but has been delayed until at least December. Plus the approval of licenses for seven seat taxis, which has the support of many drivers, is currently under study and developments are not expected until 2011. In addition rules to combat irregularities, such as illegal sales and commissions given to hotel concierge services are under review with the Director General of Transport this month but they are awaiting legal opinion and will reportedly not be ready until later this year. "I am convinced that if we move [to strike] they will hear us," notes Luis Berbel, president of the Union of Catalan Taxi Drivers, whilst José María Soto, president of the Grupo de Taxistas Independientes adds, "If we do strike, it will be soon, in October, as the slowness of a response increases our agony." Miguel Ángel Martin, manager of the Metropolitan Taxi Institute (GTI), acknowledges the delay in the foreigner examination and explains that things have not been done "as fast as would be desirable" and alluded to "complications in the training model."
Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein has said of ETA ceasefire announcement that "caution should not prevent progress" (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Adams, speaking about the video communication delivered by ETA on Sunday, urged the Spanish government to seize the opportunity that they have been offered. Writing in the UK newspaper The Guardian Adams says, "a peace process between the Basques and the Spanish state must respect the democratic mandates. The electorate have the right to elect the party that they want to represent them and the Spanish government should accept this decision." According to Adams, the announcement of a ceasefire is "a culmination of years of debate, discussion and the formulation of strategies among Basque activists"; a dialogue that has involved senior representatives of Sinn Fein including Adams himself. "By the end of last year, there was an impressive internal process between parties, trade unions and thousands of Basque political activists." He continued, "in February, a conference of left-wing nationalism, which includes the banned Batasuna group, had agreed a new approach on a broader front, which committed the participant Basques to use, 'exclusively political and democratic methods to achieve political change' in total absence of violence and without interference. He insisted that this "indicates that the Basque parties understand the need to build on that initiative. The Spanish government should seize this opportunity for peace and progress." Adams concluded that: "There are dangers on the road. No conflict resolution process is safe. But the benefits of eventual success far outweighs the dangers of failure."