When The Labor Union is the Employer

Workers of the state company Cimex in the May Day parade, in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 28 December 2017 — Anyone who knows the Cuban reality even partly knows the role of “drivetrain” played by the so-called mass organizations. Instead of representing the interests of their members before the State, they function as watchdogs of the government’s interests in each of their sectors.

The Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) is more concerned with showing women’s emancipation in occupations than in gender rights; The Federation of University Students (FEU) acts as a hitman to expel “troublesome” students under the principle that “the university is for Revolutionaries”; and the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) watches over the farmers to ensure they deliver their products to the Ministry with greater zeal than it demonstrates in ensuring that the Ministry pay its debts to the farmers.

The union leaders take the prize for docility, especially in the national organizations. As the true foremen at the service of the patron-state, they are more concerned with productivity than with protection measures; they demand from the workers strict compliance with the imposed discipline, but they fail to protest before the administration when someone is unfairly dismissed.

During a recent press conference, the Secretary General of the Cuban Workers Center (CTC), Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, surprised everyone when he warned about the importance the issue of salaries should have at the next Congress of the pro-government entity he leads.

Those who expected a complaint about the difficulties of putting food on the table given the monthly wages, ran up against Guilarte’s assertions that the problem of low wages is “much more damaging today with regards to the effects of the permanent fluctuation, which is also increasing, that we have in the work force” and he added to his list of concerns “the apathy, the demotivation” that these low wages generate.

The general secretary is irritated that people do not earn sufficient resources from their work to acquire goods and enjoy services not because of the low quality of life this condemns them to, but because they then fall into the “moral weakness” of “finding in theft, in the diversion [of resources], in misappropriation, the so-called alternative sources to satisfy their needs.”

Instead of demanding compliance with the sacred law of socialism that insists each person be paid according to their work, the leader of the only union allowed in the country regrets that low wages have caused in just four years “a loss of more than 30,000 (…) workers with the highest qualifications,” referring to the migration of the most talented to the non-state sector of the economy.

Later, as he boasted of being a close associate of the highest spheres of power, he confessed that Raul Castro had indicated to him that “the most concrete contribution that the trade union movement in Cuba can make is to continue mobilizing the workers to call on greater reserves of efficiency,” another of the many calls that have been repeated for decades to make a greater effort and sacrifice, but without any hint of improving working conditions in the state sector.

Beyond these exhortations, the most significant thing to highlight from Guilarte’s statements is his role standing next to power rather than to the working class. The union leader does not tremble when he makes demands on and criticizes those he should defend and support.

This happens because the eyes of those who find themselves holding “the right end of the stick” are incapable of seeing the permanent emergency situation in which they have plunged the country. As in any other shipwreck, it is inappropriate to demand rights; they will only listen to the captain’s orders while the official media continues to repeat that the ship of socialism is sailing the seas towards sustainable prosperity.


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