Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2017, 12:01 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Cuba

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Cuba, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 24 November 2017]
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 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


One million four hundred thousand employees are being displaced as part of a process initiated in October 2011. The government is proposing "self-employed activities" as a solution to the problem of unemployment, affecting over a million people, and its economic consequences. The recent economic measures taken by Raúl Castro's government have raised a great deal of concern in the country, where the price of food is not coming down and the subsidies allocated through the ration card are being cut.

The Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC) is still the only organisation representing workers. Independent unions cannot be formed and the exercise of labour rights is restricted.


Cuba continues to be one of the few places in the world where the largest employer and generator of employment is the state. The state sets wages, working hours and conditions by decree.

The programme of economic reforms included a 20% cut in state jobs, in which 5 million people are employed, with a view to creating a labour market and freeing up funds to pay the most productive workers.

For the CTC, the restructuring is a unique process aimed at improving economic indicators for the sake of the people's wellbeing and without failing to consider the need for greater preparation and capacity building for trade union leaders, especially at grassroots level, to meet the challenges and effects of this process.

The year 2011 started with economic decentralisation in the provinces and municipalities, where the income raised should strengthen local government, according to the reform programme. Local authorities were called on to promote food self-sufficiency, small-scale manufacturing and processing and to take part in investment plans. Both local companies and new private entrepreneurs have to pay taxes to their local governments.

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 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.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

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.

New government reform programme:

The government violates the right to collective bargaining, freedom of association and the independent representation of workers. It has decided to make mass redundancies, leaving hundreds of thousands of people jobless, and announced tougher repressive and disciplinary measures in the workplace. It is trying to develop a model that preserves the essence of the system, i.e. collectivism, state ownership of the means of production, centralised decision making, planning and prohibition of the individual accumulation of wealth, at the same time as demanding greater productivity from companies and workers, and denying economic, political and cultural freedom through increased control and repression.

According to the Plenary of the National Council of the CTC, "we have to show the world that the workers, the backbone of our society, will forge ahead until the economic situation has been overcome, certain that they are taking the only correct and just path possible". Salvador Valdés, general secretary of the CTC, underlined the need to ensure that the 2011 Plan draws on the lessons of 2010: "The major economic challenges facing the country require the trade union movement to change its methods and approaches, to act as a healthy counterbalance to the violations and transgressions that may arise with the implementation of the changes."

The initial results of this process demonstrate that, despite the prior preparation for these changes, there are still problems that need to be resolved. Although this is a predominantly administrative process, the union cannot be neutral and must be the first to ensure that workers are given the help they need and are not abandoned.

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 only contribute to meeting the state'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.


No entry for this country for this year

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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