Cuban Unionism, a Shameful Pain / Luis Felipe Rojas

The current Cuban sugarcane harvest, which has been well underway, has set off an alarming buzzer. The workers have been on shift for periods of 12 hours or more, without voicing considerable protests, except in some cases when the administrations have once again appeased the nonconformists. In provinces such as Granma, Ciego de Avila, and Holguin, diverse sources have reported the elimination of a fourth brigade in the shifts of sugar fabrication and the increase of work periods to twelve hours, however, when there are breaks or backtracks in the availability of sugarcane, the days wage- by the cut, transported, or grounded- rise up to as much as 21 hours, according to confirmations in the previously mentioned provinces.

What moves the plans of the State to attack without hesitation? Why do official unionists lie about the hygienic conditions in the workplace in Cuba? Why do they make the czar of sugarcane Jose Ramon Machado Ventura and not the men and/or women specialists who have decades of experience in the matter?

In the Convention of Forced Labor (1930; num. 29), the International Organization of Labor clearly expresses that: “The State should abstain from imposing forced or mandatory labor, and should not tolerate that others impose it as well. The State should repeal all laws or rules which plan or tolerate the application of forced or mandatory labor, and should adopt measures so that all employment related to that field of labor, whether it be carried out by people with private scopes or by public functionaries, be considered illegal in the national arena”.

Up to this moment, it has been state-unionism which has promoted sugarcane workers to produce as if it were a matter of National Security, employing terms as “revolutionary commitments” and “decisive efforts” to carry out such obligations. For some years now, the workers of this sector have no longer been receiving material stimuli which range from a fan (ventilator) to a trip to Moscow.

The Convention on the Security and Health of Workers (1981; num. 155) states that “health”, when it comes to labor, does not only signify the absence of disease but also the physical and mental elements which affect health and which are directly related with the security and hygiene found in the workplace (Article 3, C). The continuous expositions for more than 90 days of harvest through shifts which triple the 8 hours of work, an achievement reached by Cuba during the first decades of the XX century, are a burden on the movement of Cuban unions imposed by the state, the totalitarian attitudes, and the inexplicable silence of that large working mass which currently fears confronting its employers because they are afraid they will be labeled nonconformists or “negative leaders”.

Translated by Raul G.

20 February 2012