Cuba’s New, Disquieting Labor Law
August 9, 2013
Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno
HAVANA TIMES — It took me a while, but I’ve finally finished my notes on
the bill for the new Labor Law they’ll soon be forcing on Cubans. My
impressions can be summed up with one word: yikes!
As written, the bill is unconstitutional, discriminatory and downright
deceitful. When you make a claim of this nature, of course, you have to
be able to prove it.
The bill’s very first article reads: “The right to employment (…) is
guaranteed in conformity with the political, social and economic tenets
laid out in the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. The right to
employment is regulated by the present Law and complementary legislation.”
The document in question, however, explicitly contradicts Cuba’s current
Constitution on at least two accounts. To begin with, Article 14 of the
Constitution – whose days are surely numbered, but hasn’t been revoked
yet – prohibits any relations based on the exploitation of man by man in
This doesn’t stop the bill from considering certain economic activities
by local private enterprises acceptable. This, which may strike some as
a positive development and others as a step backwards, is simply an
incongruous law which violates the Constitution and, at the same time,
claims to adhere to it.
Secondly, the paragraphs devoted to public holidays and festivities
include the 25th of December and Good Friday among the country’s
non-working days. Though any day I can party instead of work is a good
day for me, I can’t help but be aware that these two holidays stem from
a specific religion – Christianity. Now, I have nothing against
Christianity, but Article 8 of the Constitution establishes that, in
Cuba, religious institutions are separate from the State and that the
country’s different creeds and religions are considered equal before the
This means that the bill is in contradiction with the secular nature of
the State and discriminates among religions, for one is accorded two
holidays and the others none. For instance, practitioners of Afro-Cuban
religions could demand that the 17th of December, when the divinity
Babalu Aye is honored, be declared a national holiday. But no. It seems
that, to get a holiday, you need to have someone as important as the
Pope visit the country from time to time.
The bill, therefore, does not respect the Constitution, though it claims
to do so. One of the ways in which it violates the Constitution is by
discriminating among individuals with different religious beliefs. This
is simply unconstitutional, discriminatory and deceitful.
The bill is at its most hypocritical point, however, when it claims to
acknowledge and respect Cuba’s long-standing trade-union traditions. I
wonder how many libertarian trade-unionists are offended by such nerve.
I wonder how many workers (those who are Cuban, not extraterrestrial)
believe that the government will authorize the existence of unions that
do not respond to strict, centralized control and training.
I would now like to return to Cuba’s new private enterprises and their
salaried employees. Again, it is not my intention to demonize a
development which, quite obviously, responds to historical and economic
necessities. What I do consider cause for concern is a series of
potential future developments. Bear in mind that this new law could be
Cuba’s effective labor legislation for the next 10, maybe 20 years.
By then, as many of us fear, the capitalist economy will be much more
firmly entrenched in our country than it is today. Private companies
will have grown and consolidated themselves.
Looking at how the bill is written, I’ve noticed that most of the
obligations set down for employers seem to apply almost exclusively to
the public or State sector. One doesn’t get a clear sense as to whether
alternative employers, private capitalists, that is, have to grant their
employees these same rights.
Right now, given the miniscule salaries paid by the State, this fact may
not worry people that much (nothing could be worse than a State salary).
But, in the future, when the by then not so incipient private enterprise
sector employs one or two million Cubans, this blessed Labor Law could
well become the envy of the worst exploiters who have ever existed.
By way of an example, look at how so many labor rights are explicitly
regulated for State companies and how no explanation as to whether these
rights are applicable in the private sector is given. For State
companies, the bill stipulates collectively-mediated contracts. For
private businesses, contracts are determined individually by the employers.
And, if any prole laboring in the private sector gets a little unruly,
the bosses can invoke paragraph b) of Article 67 and terminate the work
agreement (at the request of one of the parties) without thereby
incurring any obligation towards the former employee. The infamous
Walmart has a harder time laying people off than the new Cuban
Such is the monstrosity placed before us. And the Cuban Workers’
Federation (CTC) – or, better, its leadership – is promoting it with all
of the enthusiasm that it can muster.
Source: “Cuba’s New, Disquieting Labor Law Is a Big Concern” –