Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:56 GMT

2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Cuba

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Cuba, 9 June 2010, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 11,200,000
Capital: Havana
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138

Immobility is the main feature of the legislation underpinning the special system of labour relations in Cuba. Trade union organisations must form part of the system and contribute to it. There is no independent and autonomous trade unionism on the island, depriving it of the main instrument for the defence of workers' rights. Independent trade unions are prohibited and the law does not specifically recognise the right to collective bargaining or the right to strike.

Trade union rights in law

Basic trade union rights are not adequately protected. While the law guarantees the right to organise, trade unions must also play a political role and contribute to developing and supporting the regime. Workers' rights are thus subordinate to political objectives. Furthermore, there is only one officially recognised trade union, the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC), which has a monopoly with respect to representation of workers vis-à-vis government instances.

The right to collective bargaining is not specifically recognised, and the provisions that regulate how collective agreements are to be concluded are too detailed. The law also requires the approval of the National Office for Labour Inspection for registration of collective agreements in many activity sectors. Furthermore, in the event of differences between the parties, the law imposes compulsory arbitration and provides for interference or intervention by the authorities and by the CTC.

The right to strike is not provided for in the legislation, and its exercise in practice is prohibited.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: Cuba saw a bad start to the year in the aftermath of the three hurricanes that struck the island in 2008, leaving damages estimated at 10 billion dollars. The government reduced subsidised food quotas in 2009, cut energy consumption and stopped its debt repayments. No change was seen, however, on the political and rights front. According to the majority of the analysts consulted, no substantial change was seen on the political scene, aside from the replacement of secondary figures such as Carlos Lage, the former vice president. The same applies to the civil and democratic rights situation.

Anti-union legislation: The regime continues to prohibit independent trade unions and the right to strike is simply not regulated by the legislation in Cuba. According to the government, the need to call strikes does not apply, as the official trade union organisations enjoy the guarantee that their demands will be heard by the authorities.

Right to form and register organisations declared illegal: A considerable number of trade union organisations have been declared illegal in Cuba and forced to remain dissident, violating the right to organise and take autonomous action.

Workers' rights violations persist: On 10 June, the former political prisoner José Ramón Castillo denounced various trade union rights violations in Cuba to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Amnesty International had declared him a prisoner of conscience and he testified before this forum as a victim of repression in Cuba. He stated that Cuban workers' right to self-determination is not respected on the island. Workers do not have the right to organise trade unions independent of the state and five Cubans are currently serving prison sentences for having tried to organise independent trade unions. This information has been widely documented by the relevant international institutions.

Independent trade unionists in prison: In July, five independent trade unionists were still being held in prison, having been arrested during the wave of repression in March 2003 and condemned to long prison sentences in summary trials. They are Nelson Molinet Espino, General Secretary of the democratic workers' confederation, Confederación de Trabajadores Democráticos de Cuba (CTDC); Miguel Galván Gutiérrez, an independent journalist and deputy director of the national labour and trade union training centre, Centro Nacional de Capacitación Sindical y Laboral; Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, leader of the united council of Cuban workers', Consejo Unitario de Trabajadores de Cuba (CUTC); Iván Hernández Carrillo, member of the national executive of the independent workers' confederation, CONIC; and Héctor Raúl Valle, a member of democratic workers' confederation, CTDC.

Trade unionists arrested: On 4 August, María Elena Mir Marrero, General Secretary of the independent workers' confederation, Confederación Obrera Nacional Independiente de Cuba (CONIC), and activists Justo J. Sánchez, Hanoi Oliva and Daniel Sabatier, were questioned at the headquarters of the national revolutionary police, PNR, over their participation in a march on 13 July, at which they gave interviews for the documentary "Bajo el cielo cubano: el trabajador y sus derechos" (Under the Cuban Sky: Workers and their Rights).

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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