Cuba Workers Congress Tackles Key Issues
The Cuban Workers Federation (CTC) opened its 19th Congress Sunday in Havana faced with the challenge to make the wheels of the Cuban workplace operate more efficiently to take full advantage of the upturn in the island’s economy.
Labor delegations arrived from around the country over the weekend to begin committee debates Monday. The plenary sessions are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Issues to be addressed include job productivity, energy savings, innovation, salaries, pensions, theft, housing construction, youth in the workforce and labor’s decisive participation in the hundreds of priority social programs and projects underway on the island. The internal workings of the CTC will also be reviewed.
The CTC was founded in 1939, but it was the revolution that took power 20 years later that put the majority working class, both urban and rural, in the drivers seat.
The revolution opened up a wide gamut of new educational, training and employment opportunities in the mostly nationalized economy, while worker’s rights reached new heights. A more egalitarian society was in part the result of the unprecedented political power in labor’s hands.
However, the beginning of the 1990s brought a sudden collapse of Cuba’s main trade partners, the Soviet Union and the European Socialist Bloc, and the bottom fell out of the island’s economy.
To make matters worse, the US stepped up its blockade and other aggressions against the island, hoping to force a “regime change” in today’s White House language.
Living standards decreased considerably as did the workers purchasing power, ambitious development programs were put on hold, and the survival of the revolution became the name of the game.
Analysts credit the determined Cuban work force as well as the government’s reorientation of the country’s economy and commercial ties, to making possible today’s resurgence from what is still called the “Special Period” or depression.
With the rebounding of the economy, Cuba’s workers –as in any country-- strive for increased salaries, benefits and better working conditions. More uniquely, they also take on a central role in areas such as production and profitability, issues that elsewhere would be considered the territory of management.
Over 1,400 delegates are on hand for the CTC Congress representing its 19 union affiliates from the construction, tourism, metallurgic, sugar, agricultural, and food, communications and transportation industries as well as education, cultural, science and public health workers.
At a time when union affiliation has decreased in many developed and underdeveloped countries, in part due to contract labor policies, in Cuba the vast majority of the work force belongs to a CTC affiliated labor organization.
The four-day CTC Congress takes place at the Havana Convention Center, recent venue of the 14th Summit of the Non Aligned Movement that hosted heads of state and government from around the globe.