The strikes against the economic policy of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero yesterday has resulted in irregular reports of attendance (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Whilst unemployment unions quantified around 75 percent of attendance of the nearly 2.5 million public workers summoned, the government spoke of only 11.85 percent of workers from the state administration were present. The Generalitat of Catalunya raised this percentage to 18.7 percent. Cándido Méndez, the UGT union leader, said of the strike "it was caused by the government", whilst his counterpart Ignacio Fernández Toxo, the CCOO leader suggested that the strike had given the government a "clear and convincing indication of the rejection of the anti-crisis measures". The disparity in the figures is due, in part, to different systems of measurement. When accounting for the 11.8 percent the secretaria del Estado didn't, for the first time, include the minimum service quotas. The making up of figures is also a factor, both the CCOO and the UGT made the government tell them the numbers of those workers present and absence at each centre. They also denounced, what they called, "the abusive" minimum service regulations in some of the autonomous communities. In Barcelona total figures were around 40,000 while in Madrid there were put at around 75,000 protesters. "Not for a long time have I seen so many people at a rally" said the Catalan UGT leader Josep Maria Álvarez. The unions gave as their first figures some 70,000 people but then doubled it to include attendees such as the retired, unemployed and fellow workers who wanted to express their general anger. The Guàrdia Urbana, who normally lower trade union estimates, acknowledged a high attendance and gave their figure as 30,000 people. Workers were using the strike to demand a correction, against the average pay cut of 5 percent, although this is a done deal already published in the BOE. Álvarez said "They can post an erratum" whilst Joan Carles Gallego, the Catalan leader of the CCOO, branded the decree an "attack" on the social model of the state. Speaking yesterday of further demonstrations and strikes, Ignacio Fernández Toxo said "Let no one doubt that there will be a massive general strike because it will be attended by all of Spanish society".
Eleven imams from mosques in Tarragona and Barcelona have vowed to take the ban on headscarves to court for being unconstitutional (read article in Castilian here, El Pais). The legal action was announced yesterday in a bid to challenge the motions of different municipalities for the ban of the burka and niqab. Farid Katthouti, the managing board member of the Reus mosque and co-author of a joint manifesto said they are moved to take legal action as the "decision violates the freedom of our women to dress as they want". He went on to say "These laws create problems and divide Muslims and society.". Although Lleida became the first Spanish city which prohibits that items in public buildings, it is in Reus where the debate has been taken more serious. The PP party has taken the debate to the Senate and six Catalan municipalities have debated the ban. In Tarragona, Reus and El Vendrell will have had motions approved by vote in the next few days. Banning out right the burqa in the street raises some serious legal questions and it is this point where seeking legal action could succeed.
The crisis has created a large number of stalled construction projects such as housing projects, hotels and office buildings due to the lack of funds and the delicate situation in the housing market (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Many cranes remain frozen on construction sites and unfinished projects are accumulating around the region. High costs, difficulties with developers in obtaining financing and limited opportunities in the market have made almost all large projects unfeasible. The situation is far from improving and in fact has worsened following the announcement of budget cuts. Jordi Toboso, area director of Jones Lang Lasalle, a large property consultants, said that "Promoters are kept waiting. They don't start working on the construction of the new building if there are no guarantees that it can be sold in the market". In his opinion supply and demand is undergoing a redesign. He explains that in Barcelona this year a total of 190,000 square feet was planned for new offices but in the coming year that figure will be only 53,000 square metres. In the latest study on housing and market prospects for this year, prepared by Pricewaterhouse Cooper and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) it was revealed that "there is a consensus view that the development of real estate is not to be part of the agenda for some time, the most pessimistic predicting a period of three or four years". The situation isn't completely bleak however, with some large projects moving ahead. The four towers of the Porta Firal in the Paseo de la Zona Franca being constructed by Iberdrola Inmobilaria is going ahead, albeit slowly. A company official said "The calendar is not defined because it depends on the progress of the industrial situation and the demand for offices in Barcelona". Another project that seems to be going forward is the future of the Fórum boat hotel being done by the company Sunborn. It has suffered years of delay but hasn't stopped altogether. The ship is scheduled to arrive in Barcelona later this year.
Also in the news: The Spanish national team were celebrating a pre-World Cup win after beating Poland in a friendly match with a score of 6 - 0 (read full article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia).