Cane Cutters Complain about Their Working Conditions / 14ymedio,
Fernando Donate Ochoa
Posted on May 31, 2015
14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, Holguin, 31 May 2015 – The recently
concluded sugar harvest failed to fulfill production forecasts. Analysts
have struggled to explain the reasons for the repeated failure and have
spoken of incomplete or ineffective repairs and poor organization, but
none have mentioned the social factor.
Workers involved in cutting cane in Holguin complained of the
abandonment to which they were subjected and multiple violations of
their labor rights during the harvest that just ended.
Members of the Basic Economic Unit from the Loynaz Hechavarria center
from the Cueto municipality say they worked more than 16 hours a day
beginning at five in the morning during the four months of the harvest.
Heriberto Cuenca Tamayo, operator of a cane combine, told 14ymedio that
his brigade had been victim of labor law violations and they were the
group that suffered most: in spite of intense heat during these months,
they had no cold water for lack of ice. Nor did they receive the
promised work clothes, and they ate what they could manage on their own
since they were not even provided coffee.
He mentioned that the enterprise is still in default on the incentive
pay in convertible currency that is due the members of the team under
the labor contract. He also lamented the lack of technical assistance
that would have helped with the combine breakdowns during the cane
cutting. They are only paid as operators, but they also had to act as
mechanics, work for which they are not qualified.
“We were on our own when the machines broke, and in order to continue
working we had to personally manage the parts and the repair,” Cuenca
Tamayo told this daily.
Together with his companions, he said he felt unprotected. The bosses
only speak of obligations, order, discipline and demands. “When they say
to do more with less, it seems that they are thinking of more effort and
worse conditions, more duties and fewer rights.”
“Neither the Constitution nor any other Cuban law legally establishes
the right to strike, but nor did the union solve our problems in spite
of raising them on several occasions,” said this cane worker.
For his part, Mario Gonzalez, harvest boss for the Azucarera Company,
said that Holguin failed to meet the sugar production plan by not
reaching the projected figure of 207,801 tons, lacking almost 4,000 tons
to achieve the goal. In this harvest the province milled with only five
of the ten sugar refineries it has had since 2002.
The official explained that among the causes that led to the failure are
the breakdowns of the combines, the refinery stoppages for lack of cane
caused by the late arrival of squads to the cutting fronts, and others
of an organizational nature. “There was enough cane in the fields, but
it was not known how to get it to the centers,” asserted Mario Gonzalez
on a local radio program.
Translated by MLK
Source: Cane Cutters Complain about Their Working Conditions / 14ymedio,
Fernando Donate Ochoa | Translating Cuba –