Last Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014, 12:52 GMT

Cuba: Update to CUB12109.F of 4 November 1992 on criteria used when hiring individuals to work in hotels frequented by foreign tourists; whether individuals employed in the tourism industry are required to hand over gratuities to their managers or state authorities and, if so, the consequences of non-compliance (1997-February 2002)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 22 February 2002
Citation / Document Symbol CUB38390.E
Reference 4
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Cuba: Update to CUB12109.F of 4 November 1992 on criteria used when hiring individuals to work in hotels frequented by foreign tourists; whether individuals employed in the tourism industry are required to hand over gratuities to their managers or state authorities and, if so, the consequences of non-compliance (1997-February 2002), 22 February 2002, CUB38390.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df4be2824.html [accessed 25 July 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.

State authorities play a significant role in the selection of individuals to work in Cuba's tourism sector (HRW June 1999; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 6 Apr. 2001). For example, in the case of business initiatives backed by foreign investment, while

international companies are granted the right to select and [staff] "certain top administrative positions or some posts of a technical nature" with persons who are not permanent residents of Cuba, government-controlled or approved institutions are charged with all other employment contracting (HRW June 1999).

Very little specific information on criteria used when hiring individuals to work in hotels frequented by foreign tourists could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, according to the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, employment in the tourism sector is granted only to "faithful comrades or at least ... those whose record shows no opposition to the system" (6 Apr. 2001). In June 1999, Human Rights Watch cited Cuba's minister of work and social security as saying that there was a "need to reassure the population that the 'most revolutionary' individuals" were being hired for work in the tourism industry.

Furthermore, regulations governing the hiring of tourism sector employees reportedly stipulate that such individuals should have a "pleasant appearance" (aspecto agradable) (ibid.). This requirement has allegedly been used as a basis for racist hiring practices (ibid.; Chicago Tribune 18 May 2001), with darker-skinned individuals less likely to be chosen for a position involving direct contact with foreign tourists (ibid.). According to the Chicago Tribune, citing a researcher with the state-operated Centre for Anthropological Studies, the "most serious allegations of race bias are against foreign-owned, rather than state-owned, hotels" (ibid.).

As well, a number of reports claim that individuals have obtained employment in the tourism industry following the payment of a bribe (The Dallas Morning News 27 Sept. 1998; HRW June 1999). For example, Human Rights Watch stated that

The government has acknowledged through the public disciplining of several state employment agency employees that some positions were acquired with bribes. In March 1998 the government apparently uncovered fraudulent hiring practices at the state-controlled Isla Azul employment agency in the resort community of Varadero. The government sentenced three agency employees to prison terms ranging from ten to twelve years for demanding bribes of up to US$700 for jobs in tourism. The job selection process apparently also is skewed by nepotism and cronyism (ibid.).

Sources consulted by the Research Directorate differ as to whether or not tourism sector employees are required to hand over gratuities to their managers or state authorities. While the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung claimed that such individuals are permitted to keep hard currency tips (6 Apr. 2001), Rolando H. Castañeda and George Plinio Montalván, both of the Inter-American Development Bank, indicated that tourism workers "must" hand over 40 per cent of the gratuities they receive to the Communist Party (Boletín del Comité Cubano pro Derechos Humanos (España) Fall 2001-Winter 2002). However, a number of reports indicate that many individuals are attracted to the tourism sector because of the hard currency tips they can receive (BBC 27 Apr. 2000; Chicago Tribune 14 Mar. 2001; El Nuevo Herald 11 Aug. 1999), and that in some cases, the gratuities earned in a single day are equivalent to more than a month's salary (UPI 29 June 2000; The Dallas Morning News 27 Sept. 1998; BBC 27 Apr. 2000).

No specific information on the consequences faced by individuals who do not hand over gratuities to their managers or state authorities could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, in tourism-related businesses involving foreign companies,

Workers risk firing if they "incur improper conduct, criminal or not, affecting his/her prestige as a company employee and contrary to the standards of conduct ... annexed" to [Resolution No. 3/96]. The standards, which cover a wide range of non-job-related expression and behavior, leave workers at risk of removal for expression of political views. Among other things, the standards require workers "to maintain social conduct worthy of his/her fellow citizens' respect and trust, by not allowing any conspicuous signs or privileges, and by keeping a life-style in line with our society." In addition to sharply limiting freedom of expression, a requirement that workers not speak to their employers or supervisors about payments, gifts, or preferential treatment effectively prohibits bargaining over wages, a fundamental labor right.

Workers risk harsh disciplinary measures if they fail to comply with the resolution's provisions. If a worker commits an "infringement," then she or he could face a penalty such as public censure or the loss of 25 percent of the monthly wage. Other possible sanctions include transfer to a lower-paying post or dismissal. The employing entity is charged with applying the penalty after considering factors including "the personal qualities of the wrongdoer," which potentially grant it authority to penalize workers for expression or activities completely unrelated to their jobs (HRW June 1999).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Boletín del Comité Cubano pro Derechos Humanos (España). Fall 2001-Winter 2002. Rolando H. Castañeda and George Plinio Montalván. "Principios arcos." [Accessed 21 Feb. 2002]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 27 April 2000. Tom Gibb. "What Would Await Elian in Cuba?" (CubaNet) [Accessed 21 Feb. 2002]

Chicago Tribune. 18 May 2001. Ron Howell. "Tourism Reviving Racism in Cuba." (CubaNet) [Accessed 21 Feb. 2002]

_____. 14 March 2001. Kathleen Parker. "Exposure, Not Embargoes, Would Help Cuba's Transition to Capitalism." (CubaNet) [Accessed 21 Feb. 2002]

The Dallas Morning News. 27 September 1998. "As Cuba's Economy, Attitudes Transform, Questions About the Future Linger." [Accessed 21 Feb. 2002]

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. 6 April 2001. Karen Horn. "When Enough is Enough." [Accessed 21 Feb. 2002]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). June 1999. Cuba's Repressive Machinery. [Accessed 21 Feb. 2002]

Nuevo Herald [Miami]. 11 August 1999. "Noticias de Cuba." (CubaNet) [Accessed 21 Feb. 2002]

United Press International (UPI). 29 June 2000. "Elian Back in Cuba." (CubaNet) [Accessed 21 Feb. 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

Cuba Tourist Board, Toronto.

IRB databases.

Unsuccessful attempts to contact one oral source.

Internet sites including:

Amnesty International.

CubaNet. 2000-2002.

Human Rights Watch.

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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