Will Cuban Workers Ever Get Back Their Right to Strike?
June 24, 2013
Isbel Díaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES — Cuban workers do not enjoy the right to strike. This
right, which is elementary in any country which considers itself
democratic, is nowhere mentioned in the current (and out-of-date)
Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. The Constitution, however, doesn’t
explicitly deny workers this right either.
Some friends have told me the Cuban government, which has, of late, been
impelling certain forms of economic organization that are by definition
exploitative, may officially acknowledge the right of workers to strike.
According to Diario de Cuba, the Cuban government has affirmed: “Nothing
would impede Cuban workers from organizing a strike should they ever
decide to resort to such methods,” pointing out that the country’s
legislation “includes no prohibition in this connection (…) nor does the
penal code establish any sanction whatsoever for exercising such rights.”
All of us know, however, that, in practice, this is a lie. With the aid
of the State Security apparatus, management personnel deploy every
mechanism at their disposal to prevent disaffected workers from
organizing to protest, no matter what the issue.
The fear of being stigmatized, manipulated, associated with an
imperialist plot or the United States and others cloud the minds of
Cubans and keep them from taking a step in any direction. What’s more,
the institution officially designed to “channel” such discontents is the
Federation of Cuban Workers (CTC).
To date, the CTC has been the only institution entitled to represent
workers before the Cuban government, a right conferred upon it by
Article 61 of Decree Law 67, passed in 1983. Such an official
designation tacitly rules out the existence of other, alternative labor
Las year, the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and
Recommendations of the International Labor Organization (ILO) asked
Cuban authorities to modify this article with a view to guaranteeing
trade union pluralism.
The ILO also called on the Cuban government to “expressly” acknowledge
the right of Cuban workers to strike, “in order to safeguard the legal
certainty” of those workers who chose to exercise this right.
To no avail. As far as we know, the draft of Cuba’s new Labor Law does
not include any of the suggestions made by the ILO.
The history of Cuba’s workers movement is rich in episodes of
trade-union activism. To mention one example, four general strikes,
involving the most renowned anarchist leaders of the time (Marcelo
Salines and Alfredo Lopez), were organized in Havana during 1918 and 1919.
One of these strikes left Havana without newspapers. President Mario
Garcia Menocal had no choice but to intervene, and the workers obtained
the pay hike they were demanding.
In 1925, the Cuban National Workers’ Confederation (CNOC) was founded.
The right of Cuban workers to strike, which was ultimately included in
the Constitution of 1940 (Article 71), was one of the more important
rights obtained by the confederation.
Will Cuban workers continue to wait for help from the CTC, which has
swept away this entire tradition? The CTC approved a motion to make the
communist affiliation of its Secretary General mandatory, allowed for
changes to the country’s Social Security Law, made in 2008, which added
five years to the minimum retirement age, supported the laying off of
“superfluous” workers and, lastly, is devoting efforts to place the new
class of private business owners in the same, administrative category as
In view of this, one cannot help but find a touch of irony in the news
broadcasts by Cuban television, which show workers from around the world
(including countries belonging to the Bolivarian Alternative for the
Americas) organizing strikes to protest the abuses of their employers
To add insult to injury, Article 13 of Cuba’s current Constitution
“offers asylum to those who are persecuted for their ideals or their
participation in struggles for democratic rights (…) for the rights and
demands of workers, peasants and students.” This means that foreign
workers have more rights, in Cuba, than we Cuban workers do.
Do we need to remind Cuban authorities that the State isn’t putting food
on our tables, that we are the ones who are putting food on their tables?
Source: “Will Cuban Workers Ever Get Back Their Right to Strike? –
Havana Times.org” – http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=95318