Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April 2014, 10:56 GMT

The Global State of Workers' Rights - Cuba

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 31 August 2010
Cite as Freedom House, The Global State of Workers' Rights - Cuba, 31 August 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d4fc80228.html [accessed 23 April 2014]
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.

Very Repressive

The Cuban Workers' Confederation (CTC) consists of 19 individual member unions and is the only trade union federation that has been recognized by the Cuban government since the 1959 revolution. Workers are not permitted to organize outside of the CTC, which remains under strict government control. Cuban law recognizes the right to organize. However, according to Article 16 of the labor code, unions must support national development and the Cuban socialist model. The government claims that there is no legal requirement to join the CTC. However, membership is implicit in employment contracts.

Cuban law does not grant workers the rights to strike. Since the state controls the labor market, it determines pay and working conditions in the public sector. In the private sector, foreign investors are required to contract workers through state employment agencies, which pocket up to 95 percent of worker salaries. The minimum wage in 2008 was approximately 225 pesos ($9) per month. Dissatisfied workers are allowed to refuse to work only when infrastructure or machinery poses a risk to their health and well-being. The labor code states that "a trade union inspection of work can order the shutdown of machinery, equipment and tasks and propose that the workplace be closed down, if the conditions are such that an imminent workplace accident is foreseen." However, there is little evidence that this provision is ever implemented.

Independent trade unions face severe restrictions, and members are subject to physical abuse, loss of employment, confiscation of property, and imprisonment. According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), "anyone who engages in independent trade union activity runs the risk of being persecuted and losing their job. Workers are required to keep an eye on their colleagues and report any 'dissident' activity." In March 2003, 75 Cubans were jailed as political prisoners, including seven leaders of independent trade unions. Several were later released into exile. In February 2009, a number of trade union members, including the president of the Confederation of Independent Workers of Cuba, were detained and threatened.

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