Some Remarks on Cuba’s Draft Labor Bill

Daisy Valera

In an overall unfavorable context their are a couple points in the proposed Labor Code that could be beneficial to Cuban workers.

HAVANA TIMES— Cuba’s Draft Labor Bill, drawn up in December of last year, is now being distributed to workers at all workplaces around the country.

Advanced by the Council of Ministers and approved by the National Assembly of the People’s Power (or Parliament), the draft bill will be subjected to the same review process which Cuba’s Social Security Law and the new Guidelines of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) were submitted to: the so-called “popular consultation”.

This consultation, hailed as an “expression of our revolutionary democracy”, is supposedly aimed at involving workers in an assembly process where opinions and suggestions will be collected.

The Cuban parliament seems to know, in advance, what the final outcome of this process (which ought to be a negotiation) will be, and at no point considers the possible revocation or the radical re-design of the draft bill.

The 16-page pamphlet is a painfully boring read designed to inspire apathy instead of interest.

The technical language used and the lack of other, clearly-written materials with which workers could effectively participate in this legislative activity, guarantee, in fact, that very few people will participate in discussions.

Yet the economic reforms undertaken as of the last Party Congress, and the fact that over half of the articles in Cuba’s 1985 Labor Code have been modified over the last 20 years, justify the need to draw up a new code for the workers of the island.

The main changes to the Labor Code proposed have to do with the duration of work contracts. The new law proposes two types of terms for these agreements: open and defined.

The new Code also seeks to modify the terms under which workers can terminate contracts of their own will.

Though it will maintain the 8-hour work day, it proposes flexible weekly hours (between 40 and 44), which can be decided by the managers of the different workplaces.

Issues of considerable importance which the draft bill had been expected to address, such as regulations for the self-employed, jobs generated by foreign investment and the situation of professionals were treated only superficially.

Under the new law, private employers are expected to guarantee a salary equal to or higher than the country’s minimum wage, pay social security taxes and offer vacations to their employees.

The norm for these vacations, however, is set at a minimum of 7 days, and the proposal is to take the vacation time directly out of the salary, something not altogether favorable for the majority of individuals with non-State jobs.

Though Cuba continues to bet on large companies as the generators of employment across the island, it has not yet addressed such vital issues as how benefits are to be distributed between the State and the workers who take such jobs.

In addition, no private initiatives in the professional sector have been authorized. Professionals (such as doctors or teachers) can still only be employed by the State.

Two long sections in the draft bill alert us to the continuation of the lay-off process. The bill seeks to regulate the process of declaring an employee “available” (i.e. firing them) on the basis of their demonstrated skills. It states that management will continue to make such decisions.

The changes do not seem to favor the situation of workers, both private and State. Only a few labor rights acknowledged by the bill strike me as positive for example:

  • The right to voluntary association and the creation of trade unions, without the need for prior authorization.
  • The right to undertake legal action, before the corresponding bodies, authorities or entities, in order to demand adherence to labor and social security legislation.

These might ultimately constitute a mechanism that Cuban workers can use to revert or eliminate the growing difficulties they will doubtless run into.

Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.

3 thoughts on “Some Remarks on Cuba’s Draft Labor Bill

  • A good analysis. It must also be pointed out, and you hinted at it, that the State workers are indeed taxed. With salaries at such a low level, the State is effectively taxing their incomes even before they see their pay, at an extortionate rate of about 95%.

    In non-socialist countries, an employee agrees to work for an employer in exchange for a “compensation package”, which includes salary, vacation days, pension, medical insurance and other benefits. Obviously, workers with strong unions or professionals in high demand can negotiate much better compensation packages than non-unionized low wage workers. Government regulations stipulate things like minimum wages, maximum hours per week and safe working conditions.

  • “The norm for these vacations, however, is set at a minimum of 7 days, and the proposal is to take the vacation time directly out of the salary, something not altogether favorable for the majority of individuals with non-State jobs. ”

    Sorry, but thats how it works in the civilized world, from your payroll a specific amount of money is discounted to your payment with the specific purpose of fund your paid vacations.

    You are simply barking to the wrong tree on this one. What you MUST ask is for a EXPLICIT breakdown in salary for the state sector. Their salary is the amount of money they receive every month, but how much from it was taken after taxes, vacations, contribution to social security and retirement? THAT is the question you should be asking If you want to set up labor rules that are fair to everyone involved.

    From your comment, apparently you don’t care about the exploitation of workers in the state sector. What you see is that the private sector pays taxes and now they have to pay for their own vacations and you see that as unfair. Well, let me bring the bad news to you: the state sector workers are the ones getting the shortest stick in the Cuban economy and has been like that forever.

    I’m not going to give you a lecture on nation accounting, but to your surprise the PEOPLE working are the ones who actually generate wealth and the state role is just redistributing that wealth and thats true REGARDLESS of the socioeconomic regime.

    The Cuban economy is flat because in the name of egalitarianism, the people that contribute the most are getting ripped and payed a pittance, so they don’t see the need to increase their effort, while a lot of money is diverted to pay for people that contribute nothing to society (not to mention corruption and the impossibility of living with the salary as exclusive source of income)

    If they are discussing new labor laws, is NOW the time to apply the same rules to everyone and make visible all hidden flows of cash that happens behind scenes in Cuba. Thats the only way forward if they hope to fix the mess that is their current economy.

  • Current practice shows the regime doe not allow free trade unions. I doubt that it ever will. The author seems to be overly optimistic there.
    As far as getting your rights in front of a court that is mainly set up to maintain control over the people: good luck.

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