Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Cuba

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Cuba, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 29 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

The Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC) continues to be the only organisation authorised to represent workers' interests. The Cuban government continues to forbid independent unions. The law does not specifically recognise the right to collective bargaining or to strike.


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 government. Workers' rights are thus subordinate to political objectives. 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. 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.


Background: Cuba reached 2010 suffering the hard-hitting economic effects of the international financial crisis, the U.S. embargo, the devastation left by a series of hurricanes, the fall in the price of nickel (its chief export) and the decline in revenues from tourism. According to official statistics, around 83% of the workforce is employed by the state and an additional 5% is employed by cooperatives closely linked to the state. Half a million jobs were slashed between November 2010 and the first quarter of 2011 under the plan to restructure the Cuban labour force. According to the national workers' centre Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC), which is the only officially recognised union in the country, these cuts correspond to the process of updating Cuba's economic model and the economic plans for the 2011-2015 period. The layoffs in the public sector could affect up to 1.8 million workers.

The regime did not meet the 7 November deadline for the release of 12 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience (from the Group of 75) who refused to leave the island under the deal stemming from talks between the Catholic Church and the Spanish government. Dozens of other opposition figures were forced to leave the island, having agreed to go into exile in Spain, along with their relatives, in return for their release from jail.

Repression stifles labour rights: The number of politically-motivated arrests was estimated to have reached 1,224 in November 2010, which discourages the formation of independent trade unions, as the authorities view exercising freedom of association as a political activity.

Political legislation overrides trade union laws: There have been no changes in the Cuban labour legislation. The trade union movement is controlled by the Cuban state, and the leaders of the single union CTC are not elected by the workers but appointed by the state and the Communist Party of Cuba.

Workers obliged to relinquish their rights: The Cuban labour legislation and the monopoly of the only trade union organisation recognised by the state mean that workers have to relinquish the defence of their rights and contribute, rather, to regime's economic and political objectives.

No independent trade unions: There has been no change in Cuba's state policy of prohibiting the formation of independent trade unions and persecuting their founders, confining the scope of their action to supposedly dissident operations.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

Search Refworld