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Court overturns requirement for public workers to speak Catalan

Source: El Pais - Sat 27th Feb 2016
Court overturns requirement for public workers to speak Catalan

The Catalan government has said it will ignore a Catalonia regional High Court (TSJC) ruling that overturns protocols establishing that civil servants employed by the northeastern region should begin conversations with the public in Catalan, only switching to Spanish if asked.

“There will be no change in our linguistic policy,” said Ester Franquesa, the head of the Catalan regional government’s linguistic policy department, on Friday. Speaking to Catalunya Radio, Franquesa described Thursday’s court ruling as “alarming” and having “no legal basis.”

“This is a political ruling. We will continue to follow the recommendations laid down more than 35 years ago and that we are extending and normalizing,” added Franquesa.

Mertxell Borrás, the head of the regional public administration department, said on Friday that the Catalan government would not be appealing the TSJC’s ruling, noting: “It’s not a legal issue, one that employees have to follow.” She added that the court’s ruling would change nothing.

The TSJC has defended its decision, saying it was based on its interpretation of previous sentences issued by Spain’s Constitutional Court on the official use of both languages, as well as other rulings by the Supreme Court.

Civic association Impulso ciudadano, which campaigns for the use of Spanish in Catalonia, celebrated the ruling, which came about through a case brought by a doctor at a hospital in Tarragona province.

The court also struck down protocols encouraging civil servants and public employees such as medical staff to continue talking to members of the public in Catalan even when the latter replied in Spanish, unless specifically requested to change language. It told the regional government that it was effectively “imposing” Catalan on healthcare workers, reminding it that the protocol could also require employees from other regions of Spain to speak Catalan.

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