In Cuba, you can't talk of unemployment
An Interview with Pedro Ross Leal, General Secretary of the Cuban
Confederation of Workers (CTC)
in the People's Weekly
World, 21 October 1995, pg. 18
In an exclusive interview for the World, Pedro
Ross Leal, general secretary of the Cuban Confederation of Workers
(CTC), deals with some of these issues the CTC will discuss at its
upcoming 17th Congress, April 27-30, 1996.
"The Congress has already begun," said Ross, "because our
congresses and all the events of the trade - union movement organized
in our country begin in the grassroots orgaitizadons, in discussions
with all the workers. In other words, this won't be a congress of the
delegates that just come to hear the final sections."
On the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba, Ross said, "The blockade
not only harms Cuba, but also harms North Americans, their ability to
do business, to earn income, to create jobs in the United States, the
ability of peopie in the U.S. to enjoy vacations here in Cuba, to
interact with their colleagues in research centers, the ability of
both peoples to have civilized relations as they should be."
"The civil rights of Americans are harmed when they're not allowed
to travel freely to other countries. In the so-called land of freedom
and free enterprise, U.S. citizens are not allowed to trade, to do
business here in Cuba," Ross said.
Q: What do you hope to achieve at the 17th Congress of the
Confederation of Cuban Workers?
A: Five years have passed since the 16th Congress and in those years
we've lived through what is known as the Special Period. Five years
have passed since the disappearance of the socialist camp in Eastern
Europe and the Soviet Union, which was our main trading
partner. Seventy percent of the country's imports came from there.
In these five years, the U.S. blockade against Cuba has heen
brutally tightened. In these years we've had to introduce reforms -
changes to restructure the country's economy - that don't correspond
to the economic line Cuba followed in previous years. All of that
affects the lives of workers.
Among the topics that we're going to discuss is "The Workers and
Their Problems" which is an overview of the world situation.
Another will be the situation in Cuba since our last Congress.
There's another entitled "Our Strategy Doesn't lead to
Capitalism" in which we define what that strategy is and why we
propose it. Another topic will be the problem of employment and the
reorganization of the work force. The issue of workers' wages will
also be a burning topic at the Congress.
Q: There is taIk now that some: 800,000 workers will be
unemployed in Cuba. What effect will it have on the Cuban
A: This is one of the subjects that is under discussion right now and
that we'll place before the 17th Congress. Look, there's been a lot
of speculation on this question of unemployment in Cuba and the number
of unemployed people. Some official organizations have even made
predictions about how many people could be left jobless, considering
that our workplaces have been overstaffed, that for a long time we've
tried to guarantee full employment.
Many people were given jobs without much economic content. The current
economic situation demands efficiency and to be efficient you have to
have exactly the number of workers that are actually needed. Now,
we're not going to do this reorganization of the work force using
mechanistic methods, which are used under capitalism in a ferocious
In Cuba right now, you can't talk of unemployment. What you have to
talk about are "paralyzed people" because the Cuban economy
It's not that people lost their jobs. It's that their factory stopped
running because it didn't have raw materials. And the country is
struggling to get that factory going.
In any case, the labor reorganization implies a movement of the work
force. We don't call it unemployment; rather there's movement because
right now we need to fill 500,000 jobs in agriculture.
Each year tourism generates a number of new jobs. This is one
example. We have hospitals where we need assistant nurses, maintenance
and cleaning personnel. We need people for community work: street
cleaning, park maintenance, cemeteries, aqueducts, sewer
systems. Besides the fact that self-employment has been opened up and
this is a source of employment.
So our strategy is that in each work place there should be just the
number of workers that are needed and to place the excess personnel in
other sectors of the economy, giving people the opportunity to get
retrained, guaranteeing their wages during retraining, guaranteeing a
subsidy - 60 percent of the wages - to everyone who has to wait to be
placed in a new job.
As a trade union organization, we don't accept the term
"unemployment." We speak of "available workers" for
whom we have to find new jobs. And the government agrees with us on
the policy of finding new jobs for any excess personnel.
Q: There have been alIegations about corruption and privileges
to some sectors now that joint ventures with foreign companies are
being established in Cuba. How are you responding to this
A: We think that you have to fight corruption in any form and anywhere
it appears. We know that with the opening up to foreign capital, and
especially with certain unscrupulous people, they sometimes use
bribery to get an advantage in some business, to get priority in an
area of the economy. And they try to bribe - and sometimes succeed in
bribing - some official, some employee. But we have to fight that.
And the best guarantee that this fight will be waged is that the
government itself has denounced this and has argued that rapid
measures have to be taken against corruption.
Q: What about the differences between the Cuban worker who has
access to dollars and the worker who doesn't?
A: If only everyone had access to the dollar! We wouldn't have a
situation of inequality between those who have dollars and those who
don't. But of the few workers - when you talk about access to dollars,
you can't think of large numbers - who receive dollars, for example,
personnel in the tourism industry, from tips, the nickel miners who
receive monthly incentive pay, we've gone over the situation with
them, so that they make some kind of contribution for the rest of the
workers who don't receive dollars. And there has been an extraordinary
Last year workers in tourism donated a million dollars to buy cancer
medicine. In Cuba, cancer is the second greatest cause of death. Now
miners, fishermen and port workers have also decided to donate part of
the dollars they receive to their compatriots who don' t receive
Q: What about Cuban workers' benefits - health, education,
A: The fundamentaf thing is not to lose these benefits that we've
won. There should continue to be free and universal education for all
children, public health for all workers, for all citizens. There
should still be the system of social security that we have for all the
elderly, for anyone who suffers an accident for any woman who gives
birth, for people who become disabled.
There should continue to be equal access to work for men and women,
Blacks and whites, with no racial or sexual discrimination. In other
words, maintaining those great conquests that we've achieved is
already a big demand, and that's what we're working toward.
Read the Peoples
Sub info: email@example.com
235 W. 23rd St. NYC 10011
$20/yr - $1-2 mos trial sub
Tired of the same old system: Join the Communist Party,
or (212) 989-4994;
CP-USA web page:
People's Weekly World web page: