Wages at the Kempinski Luxury Hotel in Havana

by Fernando Ravsberg

The Manzana Kempinski Hotel, the first luxury five star+ hotel in Cuba, Photo: Yander Zamora/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

HAVANA TIMES – The recently opened Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski, Cuba’s most luxurious and expensive hotel with rooms up to US $1300, pays its cleaning staff US $9.75 a month (in local currency) plus a US $10 stimulus in hard currency.

An employee told us that in total she receives less than $20 a month, several dollars below the national average wage.

The situation has caused several of the employees to quit their jobs causing instability of trained personnel. This creates difficulties for the foreign administration, which would be willing to increase wages if the Cuban government would allow it.

The recently opened hotel made the news during its construction phase over hiring hundreds of skilled construction workers from India to speed up the conclusion of the building. They made US $1,600 a month [plus expenses], 20 times more than what was paid to their Cuban counterparts [who were let go].

18 thoughts on “Wages at the Kempinski Luxury Hotel in Havana

  • Life in Cuba isn’t about the cost of living.
    The requirements for Cubans are:
    Don’t challenge the system, accept it, stay mute and exist.

  • I note with interest the switch away from the USA Ryan.
    I agree that 13% is a lot for any economy that is why I provided the figures for the USA,the UK and Canada.
    My comment was upon the defined purpose of education in Cuba. That is communist indoctrination as shown in the Constitution. If you know Cuba well, you will also know that the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of Cuba plasters the school walls with quotes of Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and Ernesto Guevara with portraits of all three in pursuit of the cult of the personality.
    The cost of doing so is considerable. There are hoardings throughout the country with similar purposes.
    Yes, there are other countries in the world with worse conditions than Cuba. I have visited some of them. But why always compare Cuba with the worst?

  • For once Rich Haney I agree with you. The regime should not only be held accountable for the preferential use of foreign labour, but also for their failure to take the opportunity to increase employment in the brewing industry. It is disgraceful that GAESA retail outlets have replaced the Cuban beers Bucanero and Cristal with imported beverages at a higher price. They ought to have increased production of Cuban beer rather than importation – I wonder who actually profited, couldn’t be corruption could it?

  • You have to compare like situations if anyone should spend any time listening to you. Compare Cuban education and health systems and expenditures for them both with other developing countries. They stand shoulders above the other Latin American countries- the average Cuban citizen is far better off than the average Caribbean or Central American resident. You visited the bastions of democracy and capitalism, Honduras or Guatemala or Haiti? Do you compare African countries with EU states? It’s silly. 13% of their economy is a lot to them- 13% of any economy is a lot to that economy- you have no right to criticize them for that, coming from your privilege. And wow, am I impressed.

  • Irmla, don’t believe that the colour bar doesn’t exist in Cuba. Don’t believe that the Constitution written by Fidel Castro is necessarily applied. For example:
    Article 43:
    Citizens may “live in any, zone or area and stay in any hotel.”
    In 2012 my wife and I were evicted from the Tropicana Hotel in Playa del Este because she is a Cuban (and black). The following year, Raul Castro announced that Cubans could stay in hotels – a right which was in the Constitution but previously denied. In consequence seven members of my family went to Varadero to experience being in an hotel for the first time in their lives.
    Article 45
    “Work in a socialist society is a right and a duty.”
    In October 2013, Raul Castro announced that 500,000 people would no longer be employed by the state with effect from April 2014.
    Article 21
    “The law establishes the amount of an owners assets that are seizable.”
    As you may know, the Castro regime seized the business assets of Mr. Tokmadjian a Canadian citizen who held the Hyundai franchize for the whole of Cuba and jailed him for fourteen years at the age of 74.
    Article 9
    “(c) The state works to achieve that no family lacks a comfortable home.”
    Look at the consequences of fifty eight years and enter a few multi-generation Cuban homes.
    Article 18
    “The State directs and controls foreign commerce.”
    That is the power of GAESA. Citizens cannot import products for sale.
    The Constitution defines that the purpose of education is communist indoctrination.
    I have previously quoted Article 39 (c) which describes the purpose as:
    for the new generations.”

    But Article 53 is of particular significance for contributors to and readers of Havana Times:
    Article 53
    “Citizens have freedom of speech and of the press in keeping with the objectives of a socialist society. Material conditions for the exercise of that right are provided by the fact that the press, radio, television, movies and other organs of the mass media are State or social property and can NEVER be private property.
    The law regulates the exercise of these freedoms.”
    Cuba is currently rated 11th in a world of 200 nations as most censored. Under Fidel it was in the top (or bottom to be more accurate) 10.
    The hard reality is that Cuba is a dictatorship where “disrespect’ for the regime leads to Villa Marista and following inevitable confession there, to jail.

    Thank you for the support you give your Cuban ‘family’, I am sure that it is appreciated.

  • All you are saying Ryan Ross is that the US is way behind the times. It spends about 17.3% of the GDP on health, but millions are without coverage. Don’t infer that others are in anyway responsible for the folly of the US.
    Cuba did not invent social medical systems – they apply across most of Europe and precede that of Cuba. Cuba spends 13.4% of its GDP on education, That appears to be a high figure compared with say the U.K. at 5.4% or Canada at 4.8%. But in actual money it is but a fraction. The US at 5.5% boasts 8 of the top ten rated Universities in the world.
    Yes, Cuba has 100% literacy, but remember that is essential if the younger generation is to be fully indoctrinated in communism as required by the Constitution of Cuba,
    Don’t bother saying I don’t know what I am talking about, my wife holds a significant position in education in Cuba.

  • Tjen the president of the United States Dumpster went ahead and rolled back restrictions on Cuba again under the Embargo 50 plus years of BS and all they wanted to do was get it fixed and get it dropped that would be progress

  • Yes indeed,this is great and wonderful everybody,doesn,t matter ,which “color” people have the same education,good doctors and health care for everybody,thanks Fidel, but other wise,all other items ,like fridge,household items,bathroom,toilette ,sinks ,shoes,clothes,even other things what daily needs are for Cubans expensive,I travel 17 times in Cuba ,support friends and “my”Cubans family,bring ,what I can do from Canada to help them and share,so 20 CUC a month is nothing,if a fridge 800 CUC,toilette 120 CUC,shoes 25 CUC. Jeans 25 or more!!???

  • If what Fernando Ravsberg alleges is accurate, the Cuban government should be held accountable and have to address the issues regarding foreign-managed hotels. With Cubans needing work and decent wages, I have never comprehended how a foreign entity was allowed to bring highly paid workers from India to perform hotel labor in Cuba.

  • And now you’re comparing Cuba to the EU and saying it’s nothing special. How weary! πŸ˜‰ We in the US do not have those guarantees. Compare with other Latin American countries or other developing countries, a much more legitimate comparison, and, yes, Cuba is exceptional. Where else does a country spend 14% of its GDP on their national education programs? They may not have much, but they spend it on their citizens. The US spends it on war and overthrowing other countries’ political systems for the greater profits of the wealthy.

  • San Fran and CA as a whole are way more advanced than the VAST majority of the US in terms of wages. By far more US restaurant workers are at the $2.13 minimum than at anything close to your SF wages. You in SF are an oddity in that respect and should consider yourself very lucky.

  • The hotel did indeed make the news with the foreign workers debacle. How ridiculous that training Cuban workers and securing them employment didn’t seem like a good idea to the government. What a crappy call that was.

    And now the hotel is built, more crap re wages for the cleaning staff… “This creates difficulties for the foreign administration, which would be willing to increase wages if the Cuban government would allow it.” I can understand the Cuban government trying to keep wages on a par for the population (god forbid if not, it might provoke a revolution…) but if these wages are even lower than the average wage and this is compensated for the fact that they will be getting all kinds of tips… Anyway, I’ll bet non-cleaning staff are not paid less than $20 per month…

  • At <95% income tax rate, it's not really free. And don't get me started about the condition of as many as one-third of all housing in Cuba.

  • I worked officially for around $1 an hour back in Alabama in the late 1970s, but made a lot more than $14 an hour in take-home pay even in those days, largely in lovely cash. I was a very happy wage slave. SFO restaurant owners presumably have to raise their prices to cover the portion of wages that diners used to pay via their tips. I’ll have to remember to adjust my tips in that city accordingly.

  • Not true. Here in San Francisco restaurant workers are paid the legal minimum wage of $14 an hour. It all depends on what part of the U.S. one works. Not all workers live and work in the Southern U.S. wage slave states.

  • How weary it becomes reading the comparisons made with the US by contributors like CAPTCURLY. Imagine, he is trying to justify the pitiful conditions imposed upon Cuban workers by the Castro Communist regime, No criticism of the use of Indian workers in a country where productive work is difficult to find and no criticism of the difference in wage rates between the Cuban worker in his own country and temporary workers from India.
    Well CAPTCURLY, it doesn’t work! Suggesting that a few tips compensate for the removal of human rights is cynical. You inevitably trot out the usual glib stuff about the medical and educational systems and then even add incorrectly that housing is paid for by the Government.
    Virtually every country in the European Union and a high percentage of those in the Commonwealth have medical and educational systems for all – there is nothing special about Cuba. Time for you to read the British Beveridge Report of 1942! Time also for you to read the Constitution of Cuba (written by Fidel Castro) where the purpose of that education that you so admire is defined:
    “Chapter V
    Article 39
    (c) to promote the patriotic education and communist training for the new generation.”
    Fernando Ravsberg properly explains the reasons for his criticisms and he is correct. But you have to try to offer excuses! There is no valid excuse for denying Cubans their proper rights!

  • Actually, restaurant workers in the US make $2.13 an hour, plus tips if the customer wants to give any. And the cost of living is much, much higher in the US.

  • The US restaurant employees work for $5 a hour, plus tips. Cuban workers make as you see here quite a lot less. The tipping on the other hand, they would making far more then any other worker in all of Cuba. I have been there many times, service worker do well. Remember Cubans have medical/dental, free tuition (school) and housing all paid for by the Government.

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