14ymedio, Havana, 14 July 2022 — The workers at the Jobabo Urban Farm are beginning to tire. After two months without pay, the employees ask why they should pay the union and what is it doing for them.
“They constantly tell us that we have to demand more from the administration for their interests, and yes, we do, but these problems are not resolved,” says Adriennis Vega, union representative of this agricultural farm, located in Las Tunas. The 94 workers that make it up have not received their salary for May nor are they expected to do so for June. All that is expected is that it will be until after the middle of this month when they can access credits that allow them to start catching up.
“We work to harvest and support the family. We understand the situation of the company, but this problem has to have a solution,” one of the employees told Radio Cabaniguán. A debt of almost seven million pesos was transferred to the farm from the Empresa Integral Agropecuaria [Comprehensive Agricultural Company], which, in the words of the official press, made it possible to foresee “this tense wage behavior.”
Iryás Arenas Buitrago, director of the farm, explained that everything is due to the combination of two factors. On the one hand, the transferred debt prevents them from accessing bank loans, which makes it impossible to carry out any operation that generates income with which to support the workers’ salaries.
And then comes the other important question: the orchards produce, but they are far from supporting the almost one hundred employees. “We maintain the Base Business Unit [UEB] with marketing,” explains the official.
The factory, he continues, has 16 workers and is in the investment process, so they need the workforce, but there are no profits to generate wages. In addition, the fuel shortage has led to barely 145,000 pesos from sales instead of half a million.
The official maintains the hope that the reconversion of the farm will allow him greater independence to make his decisions, being of municipal subordination, a recipe, that of decentralization, that the Government is promoting and that, conveniently, helps them to distribute responsibilities.
The case, says Esteban Ajete, president of the League of Independent Farmers of Cuba, is not isolated. The farmer tells 14ymedio that solvency problems affect all kinds of companies, not just agricultural ones, and he even claims to have recent news of at least two businesses in the field of forestry whose employees are not paid. “They don’t have raw materials and poor business management has caused them to go bankrupt,” he says.
Ajete recalls that this is linked to the non-payment of the stimulus in MLC (freely convertible currency) which the Government promised to the farmers and that has not arrived. “They tell them that there is no solvency on the part of the bank,” he maintains. According to the farmer, part of the freely convertible currency that is collected in the country through tourism or hard currency stores goes to a bank in national currency that is completely impoverished. As a consequence, there is none of the promised money nor are there credits for the harvest.
“Sometimes, the farmer has to play it by ear, selling things to be able to plant.” According to Ajete, the loans, when they exist, are also suffocating the farmer. “They have to repay the credit, it’s for supplies, and when the harvest ends the government keeps the amount to repay the loan, from the money they should receive. That’s why many are committed to the bank,” he adds.
The farmer also reveals that one of the worst examples is tobacco. If the harvest spoils because the farmer does not have fertilizers or any other necessary input, the Government harvests it and sells it, not as first class tobacco, but as a lower category. “The government takes something out of him, but the farmer is pawned.”
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