Cuba Workers Deal with Unemployment Issue

Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES, Jan 7 — One of the two janitors at the Forest Research Institute in Santiago de Cuba was declared “available” (laid off) under the new employment reorganization plan being carried out throughout the country.

This was explained by co-worker Marisleydis Batista to the Trabajadores (Workers) newspaper, who spoke on behalf of the other employees at the research center.

All of these employees are upset because the remaining janitor at the facility is unable to cope with maintaining the cleanliness of the center, which includes a large theater.

The lone janitor is also required to do the work of a kitchen assistant, because this job too was recently eliminated from the staffing plan.

We know that the many of the changes being made so quickly at the national level aren’t easy, but I’m asking decision makers to calmly think about all the pros and cons when making their important decisions.

I believe that the ultimate goal of any action taken must be the welfare of the people, while achieving the efficiency and productivity of the economy that sustains us.

Within this new environment, resulting from the passionate inspiration of our leaders acting in the spirit of “fixing everything in one fell swoop,” these types of situations have become common.

Nevertheless we can’t close our eyes to what’s happening. The issue is very complex.

At first glance it would appear that an injustice was committed to the workers at the institute – but we weren’t there to see the situation.

What we do know is that the average Cuban doesn’t like to work for their whole eight-hour workday. We know also that janitors generally clean “only where the mother-in-law will look,” and they only work an hour or two a day. They spend the rest of the time “inventing,” which means looking around for other ways to earn extra money.

Speaking of money, that’s another issue that complicates the situation of “who puts the bell on the cat” [of whose responsible].

The government says that if Cuba’s companies aren’t profitable, then it won’t have the money to pay the workers a decent wage; while the workers say that if they’re not paid more, it doesn’t make sense to work hard all day.

Putting ourselves in the place of the company, the logical thing would be to post a job position and hire the person who promises to fulfill the contractually binding responsibilities. It’s a question of supply and demand.

The labor market exists, if not in Cuba at least in the rest of the world. This is what makes it a matter of supply and demand. I offer to pay so much for a certain task, and you can take it or leave it.

The conditions and principals used here end up making things not work well. We use humanitarian principles, but if those are poorly applied there are negative consequences.

For example, there are often excess job positions here, whereby several workers lighten the load between themselves to do a job that only requires one person. However the wages created by that “one-person job” also have to be distributed between several workers.

All of this is an attempt to respond to the policy in Cuba whereby there’s no unemployment, which isn’t bad, but we need to reassess the manner in which attempt this. In fact, this is what is now being done, with strengths and weaknesses.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

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One thought on “Cuba Workers Deal with Unemployment Issue

  • When the incentive of a patriotic duty, building a just and equitable society, a sacrifice for the good of the country, ceases to motivate the labor force, the only incentive left is profitability.
    However, state owned company managers are not compensated based on company efficiency and profits so why work harder?
    Is it so difficult to understand that this attitude and culture filters down to the lowest position in the company?
    Provide some form of material benefits and you will have labor anxious to work and belong to those companies.
    Look no further than your own Tourist Industry.

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