Population: 11,400,000
Capital: Havana
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138

There was no change in Cuba where the single trade union system persists, there is still no freedom of association and collective bargaining and the right to strike are not recognised in law. Trade unionists sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 2003 remained behind bars.

Trade union rights in law

A single union: In Cuba the requirements for forming a union are contained in legal instruments, such as the Constitution, which grants full powers to the Central de Trabajadores Cubanos (CTC), which is the only trade union organisation that is recognised by the state and that workers can join. The Labour Code also refers to the organising of workers in trade unions, however only in branch unions of the CTC, which is regarded as the organiser of the masses. Article 88 of the Constitution (revised in 1992) grants the CTC national committee competence to initiate legislation, along with other powers. All workers in companies and labour units must join the CTC so as to engage in trade union activities. The government explicitly prohibits independent trade unions, though it claims there is no legal requirement for workers to join the CTC.

Earlier, the government told the ILO that it was undergoing a comprehensive revision of its Labour Code. According to the Cuban authorities "Freedom of association, protected in Convention 87, does not translate into the false concept of 'trade union pluralism' imposed by the main centres of capitalist and imperial power."

Collective bargaining: The legal requirement to join a union is implicit in the employment contracts governing all employment relationships; although there is no express requirement, once that relationship has started the worker is expected to join a union by filling in the appropriate document. The Labour Code stipulates that in order to be valid legally, collective agreements must be discussed and approved in workers' meetings and be formally declared in writing and signed by the parties, i.e. the employing body as well as the trade union organisation. Any modifications or additions must be approved in workers' meetings and signed by the parties.

The State controls the labour market and decides on pay and working conditions in the State sector. In the private sector, the 1995 Foreign Investment Law requires foreign investors to contract workers through State employment agencies. The investors pay the agencies in dollars, but the agencies pay the workers the equivalent figure in pesos, pocketing up to 95% of their salaries.

There is no legislation covering the right to strike. According to the government there is no need to call strikes since the demands of official trade union organisations will always be heard by the authorities.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: The relinquishing of power by Fidel Castro was confirmed after his long physical recuperation following an operation in 2006. Raúl Castro, his designated successor, took over almost all the former president's powers, whilst announcing the opening of a procedure for consulting the people on possible changes to the regime.

No independent trade union activity possible: 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.

Independent organisations were set up by dissidents opposed to the Castro regime, and though they do defend union rights, their main concern is fighting the regime and promoting respect of general human rights, which has frequently led to their being classified as instruments of external interference. Some of these unions have been infiltrated by State security agents.

Trade union prisoners: March 2007 marked the end of the third full year of imprisonment of nine members of the CUTC, who had been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, ranging from 13 to 26 years, including Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos, the General Secretary (subsequently released in February 2008). Two others, Oscar Espinoza Chepe and Carmelo Díaz Fernández, were granted "conditional release" ("licencia extrapenal") owing to health problems, however this is only a temporary form of release. There was speculation that some of the dozens of political prisoners, including union leaders, might be released to signal a change of policy following the accession of Raúl Castro Ruz to the post of Head of State.

This 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.