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Daisy Valera: Until the middle of 2010, I was a university student. Today, at 22, I’m a graduate in nuclear chemistry and have joined the ranks of the Cuban work force. I love the cinema, books and architecture – even of the collapsing buildings. I like doing craftwork using thread, stone and metal. I fear monotony and I’m committed to the aim of building a better society.

Cuba’s Telecommunications Company: The Vanguard of Socialist Reform

June 5, 2014 | Print Print |

Daisy Valera

The ETECSA building at Aguila and Dragones Streets.

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA), born in the worst years of the Special Period crisis, looks back on twenty years of operations this 2014. More than three years ago, it ceased being a joint-venture company. ETECSA seems to be swimming against the current [at a time when Cuba seeks foreign investment in most fields].

While trying to stabilize its infrastructure and have text messages (charged at 9 CUC cents) actually reach their destination, and regulate Cubans’ Internet access, the company expands, creates jobs and increases profits.

So-called “Telecommunications Agents” sell pre-paid cards for cell phones, Propia landline phone cards and phone credit coupons. They also collect phone bills in different neighborhoods. These workers are ETECSA’s latest acquisition – and they enjoy the perks of being able to work at home and to decide their working hours and regulations.

What does being an operator, reached at 112 (Cuba’s commercial services operator number), entail?

For the employees of the 112 service (most of them women), a regular working day unfolds in a room monitored by cameras aimed at their work cubicles. These cameras are used to strictly enforce such norms as:

• Sitting up straight in one’s chair.
• Not talking to other operators (even if no one is on the phone with a caller at that moment).
• Not taking one’s cellular phone into the room (even if turned off).
• Refraining from bringing food or drink from home and eating company meals (generally not too healthy, like soft drinks).
• Going to the bathroom only three times a day.
• Asking the supervisor for permission to go on one’s lunch break (a permission which may not come on time).
• Being on the phone with a caller for no more than 40 seconds (after this time, the call is diverted and the operator flagged as “inefficient.”)

Operators of the 112 service are also incentivized. They are paid salaries on the basis of their efficiency, in the tradition of New Keynesianism.

All calls received by the operators are recorded and the wage incentive is calculated on the basis of the number of callers received and the time spent with each.

Finally, there is a confidentiality agreement which forbids employees from making information of this nature public.
Union leaders, on the other hand, have no doubts as to who they ought to protect: those who pay.

Very little remains of the ETECSA once impelled by foreign capital, with positions coveted because of their monthly incentive packages (baskets with personal hygiene items), the food, the company handbags and socks – products which made Cubans look on their foreign employers as saviors during the 90s crisis.

The State socialist ETECSA, while offering salaries that are high in comparison to Cuba’s average, imposes openly capitalistic schemes on its employees.

ETECSA is one of the first to adopt the model which the current reform process aspires to establish, and it does so without competition, from the premises of what once was the Cuban Telephone Company.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    The Castros are clearly resistant to take big steps forward in communication technology because of the fear of losing even more control over the access to information. The argument is often made that the embargo is the major impediment or that the cost of infrastructure is the major obstacle to progress. Both excuses fall flat because the Obama administration has made it clear that exceptions to the embargo include expanding internet access and a number of European telecommunication companies have offered to finance the build-out of infrastructure in joint-venture proposals.

    • rodrigvm

      Forward like in the US where there are less and less companies providing cell phone service and larger and larger oligopolies? Give me a break! Now the oligopolies extending to the cable TV! Soon there will only be one…..competition my eye!

      • Moses Patterson

        Would you trade AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Frontier, Windstream, FairPoint, Comcast, Pacific Telephone, and more than 30 others as well a huge number of solely wireless providers and more than 20 telecom cooperatives for ETECSA?

      • Griffin

        There used to be a near monopoly on telecom, back in the days of wired landlines. But with the advent of cell phones, the environment has opened up considerably. There are now many more telecom companies operating than before.

        It should be noted that pro-free enterprise governments have made it esker for more teleco’s to enter the market, while socialist governments have restricted the markets and awarded monopolies.

        So go ahead and bash monopolistic telecom companies. Just be sure you understand that ETECSA is the ultimate example of that which you (pretend to) deplore.

  • Griffin

    You might be interested to learn that ETECSA is not owned by the Cuban State.

    ETECSA is actually owned by the financial services company RAFIN SA. That company is owned by the two men from whose names the company was formed: Raul and Fidel Investments.

    http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-telecommunications-are-a-key-piece-for-military-businessmen-ivan-garcia/

    Is it any wonder then the exploitative working conditions are approaching slavery?

    • rodrigvm

      Y sigue este con la vaina…this is a lie. The FAR is not a private company owned by Raul.

    • Abajo Castro

      If ETECSA is owned by Fidel and Raul, then ETECSA is owned by the actual totalitarian and slaverist Cuban State, with them out of there, there will not be such bullsht as there is, just making the point clear ETECSA is blocking itself, since the policy rules are not correctly created. We are running in the XXI Century. I would love to know what the hell are they going to do, if Cubans inside the isle ***learn about how to access to free info, using proxies and networking programming tools, implementing VoIP and so. It would more than nice and challenging to implement a project of first of all, update Cubans on the streets, teaching them for free how to do it. Steps to do it, using proxies, it’s not that difficult => What the hell are they going to do if that happens? => And that can perfecly happen ! They can face “what to be behind is”. These are “Techy -times” … ETECSA is actually far away to compete against any other telecommunications company, even with all the capital they think they have. big company, Big company is ATT, T-Mobile, TELMEX, SATMEX. ETECSA can not compete with such companies.They have had some profits by squeezzing Cubans and visitors with needs of communication., but is not really that The price and quality they offer is ridiculously high, far away from common standards outside of Cuba. Mexico has better telecommunications systems than what ETECSA has, let’s not talk about Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, and that’s to not cite the fist world countries. Referring to IT, Cuba, probably is the last in the list. Why, simple, their policies and infraestructure is not correct. When a proffessional lacks of tools to develop, because these tools would affect the “National Security”. . Cons of this, today any kid in LatinoAmerica-South America will take to school a Network Cuban Engineer, graduated from where fckn’g ever graduated, I mean UCI, ISPJAE, Univ of Hav. There is no possible success. There is no future in Cuba and even worse for a professional for an IT Professional who lacks of every frkn’g thing. who can not implement a project because his employer is away of the actual and updated infrastructure around the World. When is so hard and almost impossible for that professional to open an Internet Browser ( Cuban National Security matters => wrong policies rules, wrong first because they are violating human rights. When the population in general is lacking of free information and this info is managed and edited first before reaching the common public. This event will have as consequence that population will look for paths that serve better their needs. At this point ETECSA, since it’s a communist company, which policies do not match the natural marketting system of the business, will not be able to compete with nonstandards methods ( one of them the knowledge, the info that we free Cubans will make to reach those who need to be freed. People will look for different paths, even if they have to innovate. including myself. It’s must a matter of time. We live in the 21st century, nobody has the right to impose a 19th century. The Cuban system is not socialism or communism it is slavery. Modern slavery to be accurate!

      I have said. ( enjoy it)
      -> Signed by: Abajo La Dictadura Castrista !

  • Marty1940sr

    NO A muchos incentivos para trabajar allí