Dissidents in Cuba
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Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights 2009 – ITUC

Cuba
Population: 11,400,000 / Capital: Havana
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138

The same labour standards remain in force in Cuba. Workers can only
belong to the single trade union. Freedom of association is restricted
and collective bargaining and the right to strike are not recognised by
law. Several independent activists who were sentenced to lengthy terms
in prison in 2003 were exiled. The country has a unique system of labour
relations, with the State playing the role of all social actors.
Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: Cuban law recognises the right to organise, but
trade union organisations must also play a political role, and
contribute to developing and supporting the regime. Workers' rights are
subordinate to political objectives.

The bodies that deal with the administration of labour are also part of
the leadership structures of the State apparatus.

The General Secretary of the national trade union centre, the Central de
Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC), has the right to take part in meetings of
the Council of Ministers and its Executive Committee. The CTC National
Committee can propose legislation.

Of the 14 paragraphs that make up article 16 of the Labour Code, setting
out the rights of trade unions and the CTC, only two can be interpreted
as workers' rights. The rest concern the unions' political contribution
to developing the government's model.

The government explicitly prohibits independent trade unions, though it
claims there is no legal requirement for workers to join the CTC.

The government told the ILO that it was undergoing a comprehensive
revision of its Labour Code. According to the Cuban authorities "Freedom
of association, protected in Convention 87, does not translate into the
false concept of 'trade union pluralism' imposed by the main centres of
capitalist and imperial power."

Collective bargaining: The legal requirement to join a union is implicit
in employment contracts, although there is no express requirement. Once
that relationship has started the worker is expected to join a union by
filling in the appropriate document. The Labour Code stipulates that in
order to be legally valid and effective, collective agreements must be
discussed and approved in workers' meetings and be formally declared in
writing and signed by the parties, i.e., the employing body as well as
the trade union organisation. Any modifications or additions must be
approved in workers' meetings and signed by the parties.

The State controls the labour market and decides on pay and working
conditions in the State sector. In the private sector, the 1995 Foreign
Investment Law requires foreign investors to contract workers through
State employment agencies. The investors pay the agencies in dollars,
but the agencies pay the workers the equivalent figure in pesos,
pocketing up to 95% of their salaries.

Right to strike p>There is no legislation covering the right to strike.
According to the government there is no need to call strikes since the
demands of official trade union organisations will always be heard by
the authorities. According to the Labour Code, workers can only refuse
to work if the infrastructure or machinery in their workplace poses a
risk, although they are obliged to work, provisionally, in another post
assigned to them. This is tantamount to denying the right to strike,
according to international labour standards.

The Labour Code also provides that "A trade union inspection of work
could order the paralysing of machinery, equipment and tasks and propose
that the workplace be closed down, if the conditions are such that an
imminent workplace accident is foreseen". There is no information
concerning the actual implementation of this provision.

To take legal steps over labour issues, workers must first turn to the
Labour Council. Labour disputes are settled by State institutions.
Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: The island was hit by three hurricanes in a row, causing
huge human and material damage, to the extent that the regime appealed
for international assistance. Raúl Castro introduced some liberalising
measures.

CUTC leaders expatriated: Four leaders of the United Council of Cuban
Workers (Consejo Unitario de Trabajadores de Cuba – CUTC) who had
received lengthy prison sentences were released and expatriated. Another
five remain in prison. The General Secretary of the CUTC, Pedro Pablo
Álvarez Ramos, was exiled to Spain in February 2008. The other exiles
were identified as Omar Pernet, sentenced to 25 years; José Gabriel
Ramón Castillo, 20 years; and Alejandro González Raga, who had been
given a 14-year term.

Predictions of a general release of political prisoners and dissident
trade union leaders, as a goodwill gesture and a sign of a relative
change in the running of the country, now in the hands of Raúl Castro,
were not fulfilled.

Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights 2009 – ITUC
http://survey09.ituc-csi.org/survey.php?IDContinent=2&IDCountry=CUB&Lang=EN

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