HAVANA TIMES — “United for a Prosperous and Sustainable Socialism” is the motto under which the “Cuban Workers Federation” (Central de Trabajadores de Cuba, or CTC) will convene this coming May Day (surely it’s a more optimistic slogan than “Work Hard!”).
The official motto covered the front pages of several newspapers as the organization exhorted us to participate in the materialization of the guidelines of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).
Could we expect any another position from the CTC? That would be naive.
In the past five decades, the Cuban Workers Union has added to its sad list of acts of disloyalty, a list that includes the prohibition of other unions, employment records used for blacklisting, denial of the right to strike, and its support of the 2008 Social Security Act (which added five years to the retirement age).
Then, in just over 13 months, the CTC has changed its line.
In 2012, with the wave of dismissals based on “demonstrated suitability” and supported by the union, it called on workers to participate in and discuss work plans and the budget (see Bohemia magazine, in Spanish).
At this time, possibly thanks to its passive attitude taken in the face of mass layoffs, the main union in the country chooses to keep its members disempowered rather than to promote their participation in workplace decision-making.
This was corroborated by the new top union official Carmen Rosa Lopez, who said, “It’s clear that the workers don’t approve the plan, but they’ll contribute to fulfilling it with their labor” (see Trabajadores newspaper, in Spanish).
The statements by the new leader of the CTC didn’t stop there, as Lopez takes the opportunity to highlight the attitude of the organization’s leading administrators. She explained that the role of the trade union movement is to mobilize workers around the main tasks of the country.
This is a position that dispels any doubt about the possible participation and involvement of Cuban workers in the “updating of socialism.”
The wearing of masks has grown old. What’s becoming clearer is a more realistic picture of the only organization that can legally represent the island’s workforce. It can be seen as one that’s halfway between a dues collection box and a puppet theater where the management pulls all the strings.
So what can be done in the face of such visceral but forgotten problems as rising unemployment, underemployment and token wages? What can be done to prevent very likely exploitation of Cuban laborers – this time by multinational corporations, for which the government will open the doors?
The CTC is choosing its side, but the workers aren’t on it. Belonging to the union’s ranks only serves to give it credit at the international level.
What’s required now is the establishment of new mechanisms of information and communication between those who work for the government and between the self-employed.
What are needed are new unions capable of fighting for workers’ demands rather than bowing their heads, agreeing and obeying.