Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cuban Unionism, a Shameful Pain / Luis Felipe Rojas

Cuban Unionism, a Shameful Pain / Luis Felipe Rojas
Luis Felipe Rojas, Translator: Raul G.

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


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