The Balearic Government, chaired by the PP and with the parliamentary support of Vox, has eliminated through a decree law the obligation to prove a level of knowledge of the Catalan language that until now had to be met by community personnel, a requirement that had been established by the previous Executive of PSOE, Podemos and Més per Mallorca. The objective is to “recruit new health professionals on the islands”. The Executive considers that this linguistic requirement, approved by the previous government of the socialist Francina Armengol, is a deterrent that helps expel many doctors and nurses from the islands. It has also approved an economic supplement for this group, as announced on Monday by the Minister of Health, Manuela García. The Balearic PP admits that, in addition to the language factor, there are other compelling reasons, such as the high price of housing, which make it difficult to cover all the places in the system.
The Government of the Balearic Islands, led by Marga Prohens, has given the green light to a decree-law on urgent measures to attract and retain health professionals in the community, according to the Executive in a press release. This decree establishes that areas and specialties that are difficult to cover are legally regulated, as well as the possibility of declaring new ones that are very difficult to cover, linked to a supplementary salary increase, to guarantee the provision of the health service. It also eliminates the requirement of knowledge of Catalan to access jobs with health functions in the Health Service. The aforementioned elimination was an electoral promise of the PP shared with Vox.
The previous government of the socialist Francina Armengol approved a decree in 2018 giving Balearic public health workers a two-year term to acquire a certain level of knowledge of Catalan as a condition for preserving certain labor rights and professional promotion. An intermediate level of knowledge (between elementary and medium, B2) was required for doctors and nurses, and a B1 level for assistants and other professionals. However, the CSIF union appealed the measure, considering that it violated equality in access to public employment.
Both the High Court of Justice of the Balearic Islands and the Supreme Court annulled this decree of the Government in 2021 and the measure was suspended. A year later, the Balearic Executive launched the process of stabilizing public health positions on the islands without this linguistic requirement, alleging that a high percentage of these positions were to fill positions with a chronic and pressing lack of personnel. The Law of Linguistic Normalization, according to the PSOE, allows deficient categories to be exempted from knowledge of the language if there is a risk that the assistance provision will be affected by the lack of professionals.
Més per Mallorca, a nationalist partner of the PSOE in the Government of the islands, harshly criticized the measure and threatened to resign if knowledge of the language was not required again to apply for a public position. Armengol relented and agreed to demand knowledge of Catalan again to gain access to non-deficit positions, finally claiming it for a total of 34 professional categories (out of a total of 40).
The Health Service verified that in most of the positions put out to competition there were enough applicants with the required knowledge of Catalan, therefore only those who applied for positions that were difficult to fill were exempted from the language requirement. The regional government insisted that, for these positions, Catalan was not a requirement, but the staff was obliged to know the two official languages, something that they tried to guarantee through linguistic support.
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The “difficult coverage” health places are those for which, for reasons of a technical or geographical nature, it is difficult to find professionals who perform the service. To make these places and areas attractive, the Ministry now creates a remuneration supplement. This group includes the positions of statutory health personnel in categories A1 and A2 who work in the health areas of Menorca and Ibiza and Formentera, although the regional government reserves the right to declare new positions, areas or functions of very difficult coverage.
The resolution of the Government Council will specify the amounts that these professionals must receive, as well as the duration of the measure. These amounts may reach a maximum increase of 300% above the current complement, they have pointed out from the Executive.
Regarding the elimination of the requirement of knowledge of Catalan, the counselor explained that her department will ensure that, once within the Administration, people who do not have a certain level of Catalan can train or improve it through courses, to facilitate citizens the right to use either of the two official languages in their relations with the Administration. She has also pointed out that the procedures for the provision of personnel will value the different levels of knowledge of Catalan as merit.
The regional spokesman, Antoni Costa, has assured that the Balearic Executive works “in all areas” to attract and retain health professionals, with measures in the field of housing. He added that the Government considers the Catalan language requirement in healthcare as a deterrent, “but it is not the only one, far from it”. “I would dare to say that housing is probably more of a deterrent (than the Catalan requirement)”, he added later.
Requirement in Catalonia, merit in the Valencian Community
In Catalonia, Catalan is a requirement for health personnel who aspire to obtain a public position. The Generalitat demands the C1 (high) level of Catalan for doctors, nurses and administrative assistants; and a B1 for nursing assistants and orderlies. Residents, interim staff and substitutes, on the other hand, are exempt from any accreditation when they are hired directly by the hospital. The Department of Health defends that understanding Catalan is a “guarantee” to attend “adequately” to users who express themselves with it.
In the educational system, C1 is also a requirement to work as a teacher in the community, but the Executive of Pere Aragonès plans to claim C2 (the maximum level) from the 2025-2026 academic year.
On the other hand, there are no requirements in the judicial field, although judges who intend to work in Catalonia can accredit knowledge of the language as a merit if they guarantee that they have level B2.
In the Valencian Community, health workers (doctors and nurses) have never been required to know Valencian as a requirement, but only as a merit. The previous left-wing government (PSOE, Compomís and Unides Podem) did approve two years ago, in the Public Function Law, that knowledge of the co-official language was a requirement to access the rest of the jobs in the regional public administration (that is, in all areas except health, in which it remained as a merit), in a model very similar to the one approved by the PP in Galicia. But this linguistic requirement has not come into force, because the regulation that was to develop it has not been approved. Therefore, knowledge of Valencian continues to be a merit in all areas. In any case, the new PP-Vox coalition government has announced on various occasions that it will eliminate the language requirement from the law.
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