Cuban Workers Could Sue Foreign CompaniesOctober 20, 2012 | | Print |
HAVANA TIMES — The day that the rule of law is finally established in Cuba, the workers here will be able to take legal action against foreign entities operating on the island, or wherever they are, to return to them what was robbed with impunity: their labor power.
When that time comes, companies, institutions and senior officials involved in those operations will get their just due.
Many — if not all — of the foreign enterprises that have invested in Cuba are signatories of covenants of the International Labor Organization (ILO) that are directed against the exploitation of workers, which is to say not paying workers degrading wages.
I remember a sailor told me that when he and his fellow Cubans were going abroad to work together, the rest of the sailors didn’t believe they were “working for their pay in national currency, about $ 50 a month, along with an additional pay incentive of $50 USD per month.” The incentives could only be collected if these workers met a whole laundry list of strict requirements.
He also told me that other sailors resented them, because the international body that represents the industry had, after much effort, succeeded setting an international minimum wage for sailors at $1,000 a month.
Similarly, other things have happened in the hotels of joint ventures, where workers also earn a miserable wage if it’s compared to the value of the services provided in these facilities.
Likewise, this happens in mixed foreign and national companies such as the Havana Water Department, the Port of Mariel, the national nickel company and many others.
The truth is that these companies pay their costs per worker in line with the ILO treaty, but what happens, without exception, is that all of this money goes first to the Cuban government. This is not to say that the Cuban workers are exculpated, on the contrary, this makes them accomplices.
What’s more, in due course these companies will be presented with claims by these workers for the vile violation of agreements they signed before the ILO. These firms will have to retroactively compensate these Cuban workers for the money stolen.
This will apply especially to these corporations that violated the first point of the “ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work,” which reads:
As fundamental rights, workers we shall enjoy “freedom of association and trade union freedom and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.”
Therefore workers who worked at some point in time with these corporations will have the legal argument that will enable them to file lawsuits against these corporate thieves of their sweat and for taking advantage of the “company union” that today “represents” Cuban workers were able to cheat them.