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Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

Tricks in the Debate Surrounding Cuba’s Draft Labor Bill

November 15, 2013 | Print Print |

Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES – Those responsible for organizing the debate surrounding Cuba’s Draft Labor Bill came up with a means of confusing the workers during the document’s review and discussion.

With a view to securing a greater number of votes in favor of the new legislation, participants in the discussions were asked whether they felt it was necessary to modify the old Labor Code. People voted in the affirmative, even though no debate about the limitations of the current legislation was ever held (and they were merely presented with this new bill).

People didn’t know, for instance, that the old Code envisages the “right to employment”, a right that was eliminated from the new bill without much subtlety.

I managed to figure out the aim of this deceitful procedure after reading the statements that Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento made for Cuba’s Granma newspaper this past October 18.

The Chair of the Organizing Commission of the 20th Cuban Workers’ Federation (CTC) Congress states that 157 people did not approve the Bill, 173 abstained and six unions in the non-State sector decided not to debate it.

My question is: one was supposed to vote for or against the said document?

It is quite telling that, on describing how the debate would be organized, authorities did not tell workers that, at the end, they would be voting to approve or reject the instrument. In fact, there was no talk of any voting whatsoever. Those who made it to the end of the debate process were called upon to “vote in favor of or against changing Cuba’s current labor legislation.”

One needn’t be a rocket scientist to see the maneuver at work here. It makes no sense to debate one instrument and then vote for the elimination of another. It’s easy to see that the government had already decided the old labor code had to be changed, and that the votes would later be presented as a sign of support for the new instrument.

Something similar took place in the debate surrounding the Guidelines of the Cuban Communist Party, but, on that occasion, at least the process was a bit more transparent, for it was known in advance that people’s comments would be classified as “modifications”, “amendments”, “concerns”, “doubts” or “omissions” and that each separate chapter would be voted on separately.

Despite this, the media later said people had approved the Guidelines, when that wasn’t in fact the case.

Now, they are using similar categories for the Labor Bill debate, but they are doing this internally, among analysts, without the participation of the workers.

According to the “union leader” Guillarte (who is actually a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party who was recently given the post), of 171,650 comments, 25 % are proposals for amendments, 20 % for modifications, 27 % are concerns and 11 % are suggestions for omissions.

What if the modifications proposed are of such magnitude or reach that they annul the instrument as such? Will we ever be told what these proposals actually said?

The consultation process for the new Labor Code has come to an end. At the end of the month, the debate on the Founding Document of the CTC Congress should being. I am sure they will do the same thing there: this is Cuba’s contribution to “worker’s democracy”, to the international trade union movement.


What's your opinion?

  • emagicmtman

    Not that either your input, or mine, will make any difference, but as long as this “top down” practice of both the CTC and the government continues, then the rank-and-file workers will feel that they have no investment or stake in the success or failure of the enterprises for which they work. Such a policy rejects all the creativity and energy of the workers. No wonder so many enterprises are in the doldrums.
    Incidentally, the same sort of alienation of labor happens up here. I’ve just finished reading a lengthy article in (a back issue from this summer) COUNTERPUNCH about the lack of democratic process in the Service Workers International Union SIEU, which is currently organizing workers in the fast food industry.

    • Griffin

      The SIEU would be the union providing the muscle for Obama’s more aggressive political agenda. SIEU thugs have been involved in a large number of violent protests and “repudiation-like” actions in the US directed against interests identified as opposing Obama’s policies. It is interesting to read how that union is a top-down fascist organization and not a true workers union.

      • emagicmtman

        err, just like WalMart, and most other major American corporations, are top-down fascist organizations who make every effort to crush workers trying to fight to be treated as human beings, and not as expendable commodities. And since these corporations spend the big bucks to lobby their senators and congressmen–not to mention the president, no matter which party to which he belongs–it is the latter who are more effective than the labor movement, which has been dying for the past forty years.

  • Ken Hiebert

    It’s actually SEIU if you wish to google it. “Violent protests” I doubt that very much. It sounds to me like they have annoyed some Tea Party supporters. Good for them.