Cuban Workers Could Sue Foreign Companies

Alfredo Fernandez

Trabajadores cubanos. Foto: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — The day that the rule of law is finally established in Cuba, the workers here will be able to take legal action against foreign entities operating on the island, or wherever they are, to return to them what was robbed with impunity: their labor power.

When that time comes, companies, institutions and senior officials involved in those operations will get their just due.

Many — if not all — of the foreign enterprises that have invested in Cuba are signatories of covenants of the International Labor Organization (ILO) that are directed against the exploitation of workers, which is to say not paying workers degrading wages.

I remember a sailor told me that when he and his fellow Cubans were going abroad to work together, the rest of the sailors didn’t believe they were “working for their pay in national currency, about $ 50 a month, along with an additional pay incentive of $50 USD per month.” The incentives could only be collected if these workers met a whole laundry list of strict requirements.

He also told me that other sailors resented them, because the international body that represents the industry had, after much effort, succeeded setting an international minimum wage for sailors at $1,000 a month.

Similarly, other things have happened in the hotels of joint ventures, where workers also earn a miserable wage if it’s compared to the value of the services provided in these facilities.

Likewise, this happens in mixed foreign and national companies such as the Havana Water Department, the Port of Mariel, the national nickel company and many others.

The truth is that these companies pay their costs per worker in line with the ILO treaty, but what happens, without exception, is that all of this money goes first to the Cuban government. This is not to say that the Cuban workers are exculpated, on the contrary, this makes them accomplices.

What’s more, in due course these companies will be presented with claims by these workers for the vile violation of agreements they signed before the ILO. These firms will have to retroactively compensate these Cuban workers for the money stolen.

This will apply especially to these corporations that violated the first point of the “ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work,” which reads:

As fundamental rights, workers we shall enjoy “freedom of association and trade union freedom and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.”

Therefore workers who worked at some point in time with these corporations will have the legal argument that will enable them to file lawsuits against these corporate thieves of their sweat and for taking advantage of the “company union” that today “represents” Cuban workers were able to cheat them.

5 thoughts on “Cuban Workers Could Sue Foreign Companies

  • The situation is probably made more complicated by the fact that the workers are generally employed by employment agencies, which provide the services of the staff to the actual businesses.

    And I doubt that many Cubans were forced to take these jobs – most fought to get them because they were better than other jobs.

    In effect, the Cuban government was imposing a 96% employment tax – is there anything in ILO that prevents that ?

  • If you think the world is full of justice and $1,000 wages per month then you must come from the moon.

  • ILO Minimum Wage is around $ 500.00
    To Sue somebody you need a good case and the necessary money
    Brasil paid for the construction of Mariel over $ 800.000.000.00 Million
    PSA holds the Contract to operate on behalf of the Cubean Government the Port of Mariel which is a Cargo Port.
    Be careful what you advice or wish for and the Jurisdiction and Venue is Key, here in the State of Florida the Statute of Limitation kicks in is 2/3 years.

  • One can sue a foreign company if he thinks he has been prejudiced in any way, yes. To win the case against a powerful transnational with its legion of (very) well-paid lawyers is a whole different thing, almost in another universe. Try sue Apple for instance.

  • The party who should be sued is the Cuban government. I know a Cuban artist who has several paintings on exhibit in Cancun, Mexico. If the gallery in Cancun sells a painting for $2,500, the gallery takes a 30% commission, which I understand is common in the industry for unknown artists. The Cuban government takes 50% of the sales price leaving my friend with 20% or $500. Granted, $500 in Cuba is a lot of money but hardly fair compensation since he IS the artist after all.

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