2,500 nurses block Barcelona's Diagonal in protest against new working conditions 

Nursing union calls for Catalan health minister to quit but Manel Balcells defends recent agreement

Protesting nurses hold a coffin saying 'RIP Nursing'
Protesting nurses hold a coffin saying 'RIP Nursing' / Ariadna Comas
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

December 15, 2023 11:42 AM

December 15, 2023 07:29 PM

Around 2,500 nurses – according to local police – blocked one of Barcelona's main thoroughfares on Friday morning, on the fourth day of protests against a new agreement on working conditions for Catalan Health Institute (ICS) staff. 

Organized by nursing union Infermeres de Catalunya, protesters blocked traffic on Diagonal Avenue and called for the resignation of Catalan health minister, Manel Balcells. 

Laia Marsal, vice-president of the union, warned that the moves made by the health department were insufficient for nurses to call a halt to their indefinite strike, and criticized officials over a lack of dialogue. 


The demonstrators carried a coffin at the head of the march saying 'RIP Nursing,' and held aloft banners with slogans such as 'A minister who belittles nurses is a minister who does not value healthcare.' 

The nurses gathered at Plaça Pius XII and made their way along Diagonal with whistles and drums chanting "It's not a vocation, it's exploitation" and "If the system doesn't pay, strike, strike." 

Traffic was blocked for almost an hour and a half as protesters marched down Carrer de Numància to Travessera de les Corts, ending up at the La Maternitat complex, outside the offices of the Catalan Health Service (CatSalut) and the health ministry. 

Union leaders wanted to enter the Department of Health building, "to be able to hand over their demands" but the entrance was blocked by police. 

Health minister defends agreement 

Catalona's health minister defended the ICS agreement – which covers healthcare staff at the majority of primary care centers (CAPs) and eight major hospitals. 

"The agreement is good, but it is insufficient," Balcells said, admitting the "significant discomfort" from some professions, including nurses, after strikes and demonstrations involving thousands of healthcare professionals.  

The health minister confirmed on Friday that Catalonia has made a request to the Spanish health ministry that nurses be included in the A1 professional category, one of the union's major claims, as well as asking for improvements for senior technicians and assistant nursing care technicians (TCAI). 

Balcells added that there will be a meeting with the Spanish health minister in the coming weeks. 

Stike will continue

Infermeres de Catalunya vice-president Laia Marsal said Balcell's announcements were "not enough" and that the nurses' list of demands was "long." 

She insisted that they want to "sit down and be able to discuss all these issues with the ministry," and criticized that, after several days of strike action, they still have "no response" from the department. 

For this reason, the union has announced that the indefinite strike will continue. 

SATSE union expresses support 

The SATSE nurses' union expressed its "total support" to the nurses, midwives and physiotherapists who have shown their dismay at the "perceived injustice" in the salaries laid out in the ICS agreemtn. 

SATSE are the majority union and are one of the signatories of the agreement, unlike Infermeres de Catalunya. 

In a statement they said they "recognize and understand" the "legitimate" concern about salaries. 

The union stated that it is working with the ICS and other union representatives to correct errors and is committed "to not letting any injustice occur." 

SATSE say they will continue with negotiations "to improve the conditions of nurses, midwives and physiotherapists." 

"This pre-agreement is just the beginning of all the improvements we will continue to fight for," the statement said.