A strike has been called for Catalan public-school teachers today in protest at the Generalitat’s education policies (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Organised by various teachers’ unions, as well as the stoppages, there is a demonstration due to take place in Barcelona at mid-day, starting in Plaça Universitat before heading to Plaça Sant Jaume; similar demos will take place in other towns around Catalunya. This is the fourth time in two years that teachers in public school have gone on strike and follows a month of talks with the Education Department of the Generalitat that have tried, unsuccessfully, to deal with disagreements over proposed changes to the law governing public education in the autonomous community. The teachers are unhappy with matters including the use of supply-teachers for a third rather than a half-day period and the high number of students in classes.
There will be a high risk of power cuts throughout the Costa Brava area until the summer months, according to information released yesterday by the Generalitat (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). While some one thousand homes are still without power today following last week’s snow, the possibility of further cuts will remain significant because some of the fixes that have been installed over the past days are provisional and include a large number of generators. There is growing concern that the power supply situation will not have improved by Easter, when an important number of tourists are expected to visit the Costa Brava in what is traditionally the start of the region’s high season. As such, the Generalitat’s Economic department has called on the electricity providers to ensure a minimum level of service in dealing with any problems that arise; they have also said that problems must be fixed at least for the Easter period so that any temporary generators can be switched off during the holiday to avoid annoyance from the noise and smoke that they can cause. Yesterday, there were 330 generators being used in different points around the province of Girona, including 241 fixed and 89 mobile units; another 300 smaller generators have been employed to use in more isolated areas. More than 1,000 technicians are working to deal with over 5,000 kilometres of damaged low and medium tension power cables.
The planned rise of VAT, which will come into effect in July, will go ahead after the Spanish congress rejected a motion from the opposition Partido Popular to stop the action (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). The rise in VAT (or IVA in Castilian) was part of the 2010 General State Budget drawn up by the Socialist government under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero; it will mean that where seven percent IVA is currently charged on services, such as meals in restaurants, customers will now have to pay eight percent, while the general rate of 16 percent will go up to 18 percent. The efforts by the PP to stop these increases won support from several of the minority regional groups in the Congress, and in the end the motion to stop the rises was only rejected by a difference of six votes; the two main parties brought in all their members to take part in the vote, including prime minister Zapatero and PP leader Mariano Rajoy, who don’t usually come to Congress for the Tuesday plenary sessions. The PP finance spokesman Cristóbal Montoro said during the debate of the motion that the decision to rise VAT was the clearest evidence of the failure of the government’s economic policy; Montoro also said that the increase would “damage [Spain's] economic recovery, is inefficient and profoundly unjust.”
Also in the news: ETA kill French policeman for first time (read full article in Castilian here, El Periodico); Josep Guardiola chosen as ‘Catalan of the Year 2009’ (read full article in Castilian here, El Periodico); Generalitat president requests financial aid from Spanish central government to deal with snowstorm after-affects (read full article in Catalan here, Avui); Spanair president to declare his pre-candidacy for presidency of Barça (read full article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia)