Guantanamo’s Creeping Unemployment

Rosa Martinez

Photo: Elio Delgado

HAVANA TIMES, March 6 — I can only imagine what it would be like not having a job. At times I might ask myself what difference it makes since what I’m paid isn’t close to what my family needs, but the answer comes to me quickly: Without that little bit of monthly cash, our economic situation would be even worse.

The mass layoffs of government workers has barely started in several workplaces here in Guantanamo Province, but stories of favoritism, reprisals and injustices of all types are already being heard.

A friend of mine who works at the milk plant told me that Communists who were laid off tore up their membership cards in the faces of their bosses; they also got into brawls that the police had to break up.

A few people who are laid off won’t have major problems because they receive money from family members abroad or have someone receiving enough retirement from having worked at the Guantanamo Naval Base to continue supporting the whole family. Other people will start searching for ways to start a small business or to get hired by one. But evidently many people don’t see dealing with unemployment as being so simple.

There are those who will be seriously affected because they’ve lived solely off their modest wages for years and don’t have another way of making a living.

Photo de Trinidad por Elio Delgado

Magdalena, the mother of a friend of mine, was told that she had one month to increase her productivity. If she it didn’t she would find herself without a job.

This news that she received from her immediate supervisor affected her to such an extent that she ended up being admitted to the local psychiatric hospital.

“Magda,” I told her, “despair won’t solve anything. You’ll only have more problems. Look, in the first place you’re not going to get fired. Secondly, you’re strong and there are lots of things you can do. And on top of all that, you have two grown children who will always help you out.”

No matter how much I tried to convince her to not be depressed, my words didn’t help her much, but hearing her helped me to understand the damage that many people are going to suffer by being laid off, especially those who are still short of retirement age.

Photo from Trinidad by Elio Delgado

“I’ve worked since I was young,” she told me. “I raised my two children alone. Their father left them one day and never helped us with anything. I’ve been working in that factory for more than 20 years. All my life has been spent there. When I began I was always among the most productive workers, but the years take their toll; also, I’m now suffering from several illnesses. I know that my children will help me – I have no doubt of that. But I’m used to having my own money and doing what I want with it.”

I responded to her saying, “Try to keep in mind that no matter what happens, it won’t be the end of the world for you. There’s always something else we can do. Plus, no one will be pushed to the side and abandoned here in Cuba.”

She looked at me and said, “I don’t know if the last part of what you said is true. I only know that it’s not fair that after so many years of sacrifice they’re going to dump me on the street just for not being as strong as I used to be and for no longer producing as much as the younger women. If they do that, what kind of socialism are we talking about?”

I couldn’t convince her; to the contrary, now I’m the one who needs convincing.

One thought on “Guantanamo’s Creeping Unemployment

  • Rosa, I think your friend Magda is right on everything she said and everyone of her fears may turn out to be true.

    You guys got a social contract that was broken. You guys have no reason to believe anything anymore.
    Think of the Union of Workers control by the regime that accepts all of this!
    Do something. Speak up, raise your voice loudly make your selves be heard.
    The worst you can do is stay silent. It looks like you are already speaking up. Keep it up.
    Government should be there to solve problems for the people. If they do not solve your problem you should be able to pick others that will.

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