Cuban Workers Get the Short End of the Stick

Paula Henriquez

Cuban workers always seem to be at the disadvantage. Photo: Juan Suarez
Cuban workers always seem to be at the disadvantage. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — On the average, Cubans are paid just a little bit more than what a pair of shoes cost (around 20 CUC) per month. Some people earn a little bit more because they get their lunch paid for, that is to say 0.60 cents per day for every working day: there are normally 21 to 23 working days a month, so that’s an extra 12 to 13 CUC. [1 CUC = 1.15 USD]

These two payments, their salary plus lunch money, were made on the same day. Companies that use this system pay this lunch money in advance, that is to say, that while we get paid our average salary for a month we’ve worked, the lunch money we get on the same day, is for the current month we’re working.

It’s no secret that this lunch money is used for everything except for eating something at midday. Ordinary Cubans can’t allow themselves to spend 0.60 cents (about 15 regular Cuban pesos) per day because of their more pressing needs, so they prefer to bring something to eat from home.

A neighbor tells me that not too long ago her workplace announced a change to the lunch money payment policy. They’re no longer paying this highly anticipated and small monthly sum in advance, but this will now be for the month that’s been worked, like our average salaries.

Everything is fine up until there. At the end of the day, if we sit down and do the math it’s the same thing; in any case we’ll end up earning more or less the same every month.

The problem lies in the fact that these people will now have to play catch up (those who pay, read here those who had the grand idea of changing this payment policy, have no need to earn this lunch money.) It appears one month of lunch money will be lost in the process.

When my neighbor told me all of this, I didn’t understand this too well. She had to explain it to me a few times. I couldn’t make ends meet, “between one and the other, it seems to me that you’ll miss a month’s worth of lunch money.” I told her and she answered that I was right.

The worst thing of all though is that this is now something widespread, or rather, other institutions with the same lunch money payment system have also adopted this aforementioned policy.

And my workplace will also catch onto this. Even after we had this conversation, I kept going over it again and again in my mind and I came to the conclusion that this is all some kind of blackmail, because whenever the system is amended, it’s ordinary Cubans who always end up losing.

What fault do workers have if the payment system needs to be changed? This is the problem of those who manage this area. Of course, we already know that these people have everything they need, and therefore they aren’t affected. That’s why they have no mercy for those who depend on this ridiculous amount to survive month after month.

Why is it us who always end up losing? Worker salaries should be untouchable; it’s like playing with people’s lives because they depend on it to not only survive themselves but also their families. In Cuba, this doesn’t seem to matter.

Paula Henriquez

Paula Henriquez: Since childhood I have been told I should be careful what I say in public. "Think before you speak, especially in front of others," my mother would say, and it was more of a plea than a scolding. Even today I hear her and I obey her, just that I do not speak, I write. Letters and words are my escape, my exit and daily catharsis, which printed on paper, revive me. And this picture is my refuge.