The Right to Play and Rest / Dora Leonor Mesa

By Lic. Dora Mesa Crespo* and Lic. Odalina Guerrero Lara **

*Coordinator for the Cuban Association for the Development of Infant Education

**Attorney for the Cuban Law Association

ARTICLE 59 of the Preliminary Plan of Labor Law [1] (CHAPTER V. SPECIAL PROTECTION IN THE WORK OF YOUTH OF FIFTEEN AND SIXTEEN YEARS) regulates the working day for working teenagers 15 and 16 years old.

ARTICLE 59: The working day of youths of fifteen (15) and sixteen (16) years of age cannot exceed seven (7) hours daily, nor forty (40) weekly, and they are not allowed to work on days of rest, save that the work carried out for reasons of exceptional social interest or force majeure.

We have expressed with priority, that we consider that the ARTICLE 59 stipulates that “the youths of fifteen (15) and sixteen (16) years of age for reasons of exceptional social interest or force majeure can work on days of rest” infringes Conventions of International Rights, starting in Article 3 and Article 31 of the Convention of Child Rights [2], that treats respectively the superior interest of the children and their right to play and to rest.

The fundamental Article 3 of the Convention expresses: “In all measures concerning children that use the public or private institutions of social welfare, the tribunals, the administrative authorities or the legislative organizations, a fundamental consideration that they will attend to will be in the superior interest of the child”.

If the teenage workers work for social interests in their days of rest, this interest overrides the greater interest of the child and so violates Article 3 of the Convention and Article 13.1 b) that regulates the prohibition of outstanding hours of work for the teenagers in the Convention number 138 of the International Organization of Work (OIT). [3] [4]

When the workers younger than 18 years old work as an exception for force majeure according to the OIT, [5] they were particularly exposed to risks and to enter direct contact with them, which is improper according to the same Article 60 of the Preliminary Plan, the Article 32 of the Convention of Child Rights and Article 40 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba.

For well-founded reasons in the same legislation, we consider that ARTICLE 59 of the Preliminary Plan of Labor Law should adjust the national and international norms, principles, and rights. For this reason we recommend a new draft that guarantees the respect of the working day and the rest in all labor activities and economic sectors of the workers under the age of 18, not just those who are 15 and 16. People under 18 years of age, being a population especially vulnerable, have a right to a more specific protection.

From our point of view, it should regulate the hours of the working day of adolescents from 15 to 18, shouldn’t expose them to risks, and should always adopt the flexibility and observance of the law needed to accept other proposals of the employers that can be acceptable for the minor, with subject of right and for the competent authority of the Minister of Labor and Social Security of the Republic of Cuba.

According to the Panamerican Organization of Health (2010) it can be said that the leisure or weekly rest (OIT), from a global approach, is a human right, a resource for personal development, an area of human experience, a source of health and of prevention of physical or mental illness, and an indicator of the quality of life loaded with an enormous economic potential.

The Cuban youth, for their dependence and vulnerability, are protected by national and international law. In this manner, they benefit from established protection in all instruments of human rights, and above all in the International Convention of Child Rights and the International Human Rights. The inexcusable respect of the rest of the working adolescents is a basic standard for humanity.

[1]  http://www.trabajadores.cu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Anteproyecto-Ley-Codigo-TRabajo-Cuba-2013.pdf

[2] http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/docs/co/CRC.C.CUB.CO.2_sp.doc

[3]  www.ilo.org/ilolex/spanish/

[4]  http://www.ilo.org/public/spanish/support/lib/resource/subject/yestandards.pdf

[5]  http://www.ilo.org/global/lang–es/index.htm

 Translated by LW

1 November 2013

Cuban Adolescents Facing an Employment Contract / Dora Leonor Mesa

By Lic. Dora Mesa Crespo Coordinator of the Cuban Association for the Development of Early Childhood Education, and Lic. Odalina Guerrero Lara, Attorney for the Cuban Law Association.

Labor Law is a system of principles governing employment relations.  Thus, we understand that the essence of Labor Law is precisely the employment relationship.

Analysis of the draft Labor Code Law [1]

Chapter III. EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT. Section One Formalities and the Capacity To Make Employment Contracts

Article 20 (Chapter III) provides:

ARTICLE 20: The employment relationship between employer and employee is formalized with an employment contract…

In the Draft of the Labor Law Code, hereinafter Draft, when it defines Contract, it omits that Article 20 refers only to an individual contract.

The Individual Employment Contract is entered into individually between the employee and the employer, which can be a person, although reality shows us that in one employment relationship there can be many physical or legal parties, simultaneously or successively, corresponding to the employer.

The Draft of the Labor Code, Chapter III, Article 20 explains it in the following manner:

Acticle 20.  The employment relationship between the employee and the employer is formalized via an Employment Contract, in which the employee, on one side, is committed to perform the work, follow disciplinary rules and the employer on his side, is required to pay wages to the employee and will guarantee safe working conditions, labor rights and social security which are established by legislation.  The contract will be considered null if there are any violations to this Law.

The employment relationship

Per professor Cavazos, the employment relationship starts at the same moment in which the employee begins work; however, the employment contract is achieved with the simple fact of agreement.  Therefore, there could be instances of the existence of an employment contract without an employment relationship; it occurs when a contract is entered into and it is agreed that the service will be performed at a later time.

The existence of an employment relationship presumes the existence of a contract, between the party performing the work and the one that receives it; it presumes the employment relationship, and the lack of agreement is always imputable to the employer.

Chapter I GENERAL DISPOSITIONS, First Section, Principles and Fundamentals to Employment Law.  Perhaps to make it easier for the employees, the legal article defines the ones subjects to the “employment relationship”, (Article 9), identifies the employer and worker, but omits the description of the “employment relationship” which does exist when defining the contract, but with an inexplicable omission as to what an “Individual Work Contract” relates to.

In the section that relates to Contracts (articles 26 through 28) it really refers to the length of time of the individual relationships of employment as established in Chapter III, Draft of the Labor Code Law.

Chapter III Employment Contract – Second Section – Types of Employment Contracts

ARTICLE 26: Types of employment contracts used:

a) For an undetermined time, the work is to be undertaken in character permanent in nature and it doesn’t express the date of termination;

b) for a determined time, for the execution of a determined work or project, to complete potential or emergent work, for seasonal work or for the fulfillment of social work, for a trial period, to fill in for absent employees due to justified causes protected to continue for an undetermined time; they are arranged to be performed in a permanent manner and it doesn’t express a termination date.

Therefore, in a legal definition, it’s said that there is a contract when two or more parties, with contractual capacity agree under a common declaration of intent, meant to regulate their rights and obligations.

In modern law, the employment contract is not freed to the autonomy of the contractual parties, the law imposes limitations, fundamentally intended to protect the rights and obligations of the employee, or beneficiary, especially if they are under the age of 18.

There is a reciprocal relationship between both parties in an employment contract.  By adhering to the limitations, what is a right to one party it becomes an obligation to the other.  This is the legal relationship that is protected by the legal bodies.

[1]  http://www.trabajadores.cu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Anteproyecto-Ley-Codigo-TRabajo-Cuba-2013.pdf

Translated by – LYD

16 September 2013

Teenagers’ Access to Cuban Universities

Source – Access to Cuban Universities of Qualified Workers and Trade School Graduates, Mesa Crespo, D.L.

Although Cuba’s reputation as an advanced third world country with regards to education, annually thousand of students and workers under the age of 18 don’t have access to college level education due to social and governmental obstacles.

The Youth Code, a law implemented in 1978 and approved by the National Assembly of Popular Power, the supreme organization of the State power, explains in one of its articles that newly graduated students from basic education (up to 9th grade) can continue their education depending on their academic performance and political and social attitude.

In reality, new directives and resolutions added to the code present obstacles to the academic development of a portion of the students, who due to their age are considered adolescents.

Since the 90’s, social investigative centers run by the government have conducted studies, where diverse realities among the Cuban youth were identified: disintegration and poor social mobility in the most vulnerable population sectors and the incipient lack of motivation to continue college education.

This post belongs to a series that attempts to analyze the access to higher education of the students attending polytechnics; especially those classified as “qualified workers” who are a part of the Technical and Professional Education (ETP).  After this analysis we can concentrate on the deep fundamental aspects related to the socioeconomic and educational environment at this level of education.

The term “polytechnic student” applies to qualified workers, which refers both to the studies for qualified workers — in some specialties that relates learning a trade or skill — and to the category known as mid-level, known generically in Cuba as mid-technicians.  The differentiations between the two level of students will be made when the need arises in the coming articles in order to better understand the topic.

Translated by – LYD

2 September 2013

Decent Work / Dora Leonor Mesa

Poverty is the cause and reason that makes the worker particularly vulnerable to psychological stress.

Source: IX Meeting of the Mixed Committee

OIT- OMS sobre Medicina del Trabajo (1984)

Juan Somavia defined it as “productive labor in which freedom, equality, security and dignity are conditions,  rights are respected and fair wage payment exists as well as social protection”.

The notion of decent work amounts then “to what people expect in their working lives”, a productive work with: Fair pay; Safety in the workplace; Social protection of families; Better perspectives for personal development and social integration; Freedom for individuals to express their concerns, organize and take part in the decisions that affect their life; Equality of opportunity and treatment for women and men.

What is the Decent Work?

Is an important condition to overcome poverty, reduce social inequalities and ensure sustainable development and a democratic government.

The impact of improper working conditions

Impact in numbers; Early aging; Workforce exhaustion; Mental health deterioration; Work stress; Absenteeism

Work related illnesses will double by year 2020 if no changes occur.  Per the Work Ministry in Japan, some cases including suicides are on the rise: 13 cases in 1995; 18 cases in 1996; 23 cases in 1997; 355 cases in 2005

Karoshi (death due to excess work): First case in 1969.

Causes of death: Heart attacks and strokes including subarachnoid hemorrhage (18.4%); cerebral hemorrhage (17.2%); heart attack or brain stroke (6.8%); myocardial infarction (9.8%); heart failure (18.7%); other causes (29.1%), including among them illnesses of rationalization.

The National Defense Council of the Victims of Death from Overwork (karoshi), is an institution that helps the victim’s families to obtain compensation and in many cases, fight endless judicial battles; it’s considered that karoshi affects annually around 10,000 Japanese employees.

Who commits suicide?: Any social status; Work hours with a medium of 10-12 hours without rest days.

What happens in China?: The life expectancy of the “brains” that lead the technology park in Zhongguancun, north of Beijing, considered the Chinese “Silicon Valley” is 54 years and 70% risk of death from “karoshi” (death due to excess work).

It also happens in Europe: The Appellate Court in Riom (Puy-de Dome) confirmed it in February 2000; In January 20, 1997 a man was found hanged, having been threatened with dismissal.

What is burn-out?  Some define it as a psychological retirement from work as an answer to dissatisfaction and excessive stress.

Dynamic Definition of burn-out: Labor Stress / Tiredness / Defensive Attitudes:  Rigidity, Cynicism and Indifference; Demand – Available Resources / Tension; Fatigue, Irritability.

Absenteeism: An employee who is absent from work “without reason” is showing his desire to leave that job forever.

How can we intervene to prevent this?: With the improvement of working conditions.  Improving the quality of the job is the central requirement to ensure health and security at work; so decent works exists.  It’s essential to prevention.

Translated by – LYD

23 September 2013

The Privatization of Education in Cuba: Kissing the Right Frog / Haroldo Dilla Alfonso (Posted on Dora Leonor Mesa’s blog)

By Haroldo Dilla Alfonso, Dominican Republic, July 26, 2013, Originally posted on Cubaencuentro. Translation originally on Havana Times.

HAVANA TIMES — An ad for a private day care center in Havana has been posted on the Internet (including Cuba’s classifieds page, Revolico) for some days now. The owner, Zulema Rosales, is reportedly the daughter of General Rosales del Toro.

Since I don’t know this person, or the general’s family, or the general, for that matter, I can’t really confirm this claim. I don’t know whether they are good or bad people, if they are hard-working or lazy, honest or not. As such, none of this stems from a personal judgment of these individuals.

Read the rest of this post in English here, at the Havana Times

16 September 2013

No Respect for the Teacher / Victor Manuel Dominguez (Posted on Dora Leonor Mesa’s Blog)

By Víctor Manuel Domínguez

Havana, Cuba, 2.7.2013  http://www.cubanet.org

Another academic year with more pain than glory comes to its end (2012/2013). Another mess-up. Never mind that the information media go on about the advances in the pedagogical methodology, the implementation of the plan, the improvement in the basics of study, the improvement in the learning of the student body, and exemplary discipline.

The parents, teachers, education sector managers and the students know it isn’t so.

The promises of better courses for the students are erased like words written in chalk. The fraud, corruption and the lack of interest in teaching or learning are common in the schools.

The reasons why, course after course, things go from bad to worse, are there. The frustration of many professional parents who hardly have enough to live on, the low salary of the educators who can’t survive to the end of the month, the corruption of many directors, and the lack of prospects on the part of the pupils, are more than enough to ensure things don’t get any better.

Obdulia Camacho (not her real name), librarian, ethnologist and professor of literature and Spanish for more than six decades, says that the education sector is one of the worst and most complex in the country, because of its influence on the formation of the people from infancy.

“Before, without learning, you couldn’t advance,” she said.

At the age of 80, she still works in the sector on a contract basis. Although, as she points out, because of her low pay (about 350 pesos in national money, $16 USD) she has had to work as an attendant in a hospital and receptionist in a primary school, as well as washing and ironing for anybody who wants it, looking after people who are ill, among other work she does to make up her salary, because she has a daughter and a grandchild to support.

In accordance with her authoritative opinion, indiscipline in the sector is general. The study plans leave much to be desired. Most education centers are in bad condition in regard to basic needs, sanitary fittings, but above all education is miserable because of lack of values and corruption.

“Last week,” she said, “the mother of a student in a school located at 20 de Mayo and Ayestarán in El Cerro, turned up very upset in the center’s management office and shouted that her daughter had to pass the physics exam, since she had paid $20 in order that she wouldn’t have any problem with the grade.”

In another school in Central Havana, a student taking an exam stood up in the middle of the class and, in a disrespectful and threatening manner, went up to a female teacher, who had been in the sector for more than 40 years, and shouted at her:” Hey you, cross-eyes, if I don’t come out well in this test, you will see what happens to you.”

The teacher started crying.

According to Obdulia, although such things can happen in any country, the causes are distinctly different in Cuba, whose educational system is permeated by a disproportionate control, coercion and indoctrination of the student body to the detriment of a free and universal education.

“It’s embarrassing”, she said, “that with so many basic problems, like indiscipline, the frustration on choosing a course which offers hardly any benefit, the sale of exams – recently recognised by the official press [1] – the favoritism and a thousand things more that demand radical change in the national educational system, they still talk as if nothing was wrong and they hold up the Cuban educational system as an example which the world should follow.

Another academic year with more pain than glory, comes to its end. The teachers dream that in the following year their pay will go up and their working conditions will improve. The parents pray because the vacations are coming up soon. And the students enjoy themselves away from a classroom which gives them more nightmares than dreams.

[1] Recognised recently in the official press.

http://www.cubanet.org/articulos/granma-destapa-%C2%A1ahora-fraude-docente/

Translated by GH

16 September 2013

Physical Punishment of Cuban Children is Common / Dora Leonor Mesa

Our Father who is in heaven!
Why have you forgotten me?
You remembered the fruit in February,
when your flesh became ruby
My side is open as well,
and you do not want to look at me!

Nocturno, G. Mistral

Peter Newell, coordinator of the GLOBAL INITIATIVE TO END ALL Corporal PUNISHMENT OF CHILDREN is categorical in his 2010 report referring to corporal punishment inflicted upon Cuban children:

CUBA (second report – CRC/C/CUB/2)

Corporal punishment in the home

Corporal punishment in Cuban homes is legal.

The Family Code of 1975 allows “moderate” punishment by parents (article 86) and by those who are responsible for the care and/or education of children (article 152).

The legal regulations against violence and abuse in the Family Code (1975), Penal Code (1987) and the Constitution of the Republic, do not explicitly express prohibitions against corporal punishment in the upbringing of infants.

Corporal punishment outside the home

Corporal punishment in schools is legal.

The resolution, along with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education (1987) approved disciplinary regulations at work during educational activities. However, it is said that “every worker in educational activities can’t maltreat students by words or actions (article 4)” doesn’t specifically prohibit physical punishment. Continue reading

In the Path of Junko Tabei / Dora Leonor Mesa

Junko Tabei

Womanhood and motherhood is a blessing.  As women we are faced with many challenges in any part of the world despite the indisputable social advancements in the past decades, but one forgets when one fights to support* a family, including if you live in a country like Cuba, wretched thanks to the decision of a group of people; where on top of that everything is organized in such a manner that the difficulties and challenges are constant however planned the life you lead is.  The matter is complicated much more if you are poor.  Now maternity is not so fun, even though you bear it with that “the children didn’t ask you to bring them to Cuba.”

You can still be happy with three requisites: woman, mother and poor.  The hair really starts to get knotted with the fourth requirement: to be black.

Everything gets complicated.

Cuba, the beautiful and racist island of the Caribbean, where it is natural to be black and poor.

If a black woman dresses well and has money, many Cubans probably believe she is a well-known artist or athlete.  She’s not one of those?  Weird!  Does she have a foreign husband?  Of course!  In these cases it is recommended that one gets used to the title “girl from the streets with luck,” even though she is more demure than an angel and with more merits than a Nobel Prize.  Through these reflections the Japanese Junko Tabei arrived, born May 23, 1939, in the prefecture of Fukushima. She became the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on May 16, 1975.

I am convinced that we need the courage and tenacity of this incredible mountain climber.  So we, the Cubans of African descent, can occupy the place we deserve in Cuban society with full rights.  And these places must be conquered with much sacrifice.  This respect to which we aspire is as steep as the will of Junko Tabei.  If the goal is not as high as Everest, we will lose our way.  In reality there are very notable Cubans of African descent, even though nothing changes.  Inevitable we have to follow the route of Junko Tabei.  Without sparing strength, without receiving applause. Struggle with faith against the eternal blizzards, the intolerable exhaustion…and the habit of always seeing ourselves as so humble, so conflicted.

8 August 2013

The Teaching of Zero in the Pre-school Years / Dora Leonor Mesa

By Karen Garcia

Zero symbolizes nothing.  It presents itself as the cornerstone of mathematics, mute protagonist of our arithmetical system.

The idea of zero developed in India starting in the 5th century B.C.  There various religions accepted the creation of the world starting from nothing.  The Hindus demonstrated that when you add it to any number it’s unchanged, while if you combine it using multiplication, the result is null.  Later they tried to use it as a divisor and the admired the appearance of infinity.  The Arabs transmitted this mathematical wisdom to Europe with the expansion of Islam.  The Jews also incorporated it into the Cabala, their mystical tradition, to create numerology.[1]

In the Cuban school, a child acquires the notion of the concept of zero in first grade. From a young age he knows how to recite the numbers up to great quantities but the concept of quantity and cardinal notion is usually acquired during the early years of primary school.  So the concept of zero appears in the resolution of concrete operations of addition and subtraction where the same represents the absence “of what one is going to share;” eg: I have a box of 5 candies and Pedro ate 5.  How many are left?[2]

In the mathematics textbook of first grade (Edited by Pueblo and Educacion.  8th edition, Cuba 2010) the natural numbers from 1-10 appear on page 11.  Starting from page 54, the number 0 appears on the number line.

During the teaching of preschool, an activity that could be used to introduce the concept of zero is to give each little one a small box of objects.  Mention to them that they are going to start with zero and ask them to signal the quantity, that is to say, that they take all the objects out of the box. It is recommended to write on the board the number 0, at the same time reminding that them that we start from this number and in this way constructing learning.  Instead of saying 1, 2, 3, 4,…once the toddler knows the abstract concept of number, it’s time to teach him to count: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4…. This way of teaching facilitates the concept of the number line that will be used later in the first grade of elementary school.

[1] Loria, Gino, Historia Sucinta de la Matematica, 1932

[2] Monaco Nancy I., El número cero ¿la nada matematica?, Buenos Aires, 2009

8 August 2013