From email@example.com Fri Nov 17 10:20:02 2000
Copyright 2000 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worker Discontent Deepens with Crisis
By Dalia Acosta, IPS, 15 November 2000
HAVANA, Nov 15 (IPS) - Job dissatisfaction among Cuban workers has grown worse over the last decade, in parallel with the worst economic crisis the socialist government of Fidel Castro has faced.
The governmental National Institute for Worker Health (INSAT) reports that the perception of Cuban employees of their work environment is "less positive" today than it was in the late 1980s.
In 1988-1989, 26.8 percent of the workers surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with their jobs, but the percentage jumped to 40.6 percent in a similar study conducted in 1998-1999.
There are many more complaints recorded now about excessive physical and psychological effort in the workplace, the management style of superiors, professional problems and internal work relations.
In addition, "job dissatisfaction is frequently the result of work environment conditions, such as noise, vibrations, and the presence of chemical and biological substances," stated Elvis Guerrero Lobaina, a clinical psychologist at INSAT.
Unhappiness with the work environment was mentioned by 12.9 percent of the people polled at the end of the 1990s, compared to 7.7 percent of those surveyed a decade earlier.
Women present with psychological complaints more often than men, both in the workplace and at home, including frustrations with their families, romantic partners and sexual relations.
And women "are particularly sensitive to conflicts in their interpersonal relationships, and to feeling over-taxed by their workloads, whether physically or psychologically," Guerrero said.
The INSAT study involved 3,000 individuals and evaluated the relationship between stress-generating elements "both in the work and family environments, and the impacts on mental health." In every case, women are in a worse situation than men.
The research took into account the total workload of each woman, including her domestic duties. "Domestic chores also involve health risks and deserve attention," stressed Guerrero.
Sources form the Ministry of Labour and Social Security announced this month that there are approximately 4.5 million people employed in Cuba, out of the nation's total 11 million inhabitants. More than 43 percent of the workers are women. The government reports it has created 124,000 new jobs this year.
Unemployment reached 6.1 percent in September, compared to four percent in 1990. More than half the people seeking work on the island are women and, in general, are young adults.
For the first time since the Castro-led revolution of 1959, the possibility of layoffs became a reality with the economic crisis of the 1990s.
First came factory closings, the reduction of job positions, and shortages in energy and raw materials. In 1995 the Cuban government implemented a strategy of gradual labour reforms in order to improve the efficiency of its enterprises.
Despite the 34.8-percent drop in gross domestic product (GDP) from 1990 to 1993, the authorities guaranteed a temporary subsidy for those who had been "rationalised," the term used for the victims of layoffs.
In addition to labour insecurity, workers on the island were hurt by the sharp cuts in public transport and by the considerable decline in the value of the average salary, some 200 pesos throughout the last decade.
In the worst moments of the economic crisis, one US dollar was the equivalent of 150 Cuban pesos. The exchange rate in recent years has stabilised at around 21 pesos per dollar at the government-run exchanges.
"Getting to work is a real odyssey. You leave home two hours ahead of time and, between this and that, often the bus doesn't go by on time, and you arrive at work two hours late," says Gustavo Brito, 41, a technician at a state-run firm.
"Then, you get there and most likely there is no electricity, or something else happens. You are there four or five hours wasting time and thinking about when you'll catch the bus back," he added.
Another case is Yanelis G˘mez, a professional who confesses she has often considered "leaving it all and staying home," because she is "fed up with the incompetence and lack of comprehension of the managers, and with the suspicions that arise in reaction to any new idea."
G˘mez says she is sure "it is not worth it to work so hard for 340 pesos a month," but at the same time she cannot imagine herself "stuck all day at home, where in the end I would work twice as hard as I am now and not earn a cent."
A survey conducted by experts from the National Office of Statistics indicates that more than 90 percent of employed women also work at home, where they toil an average of 18 more hours per week than men.
The report "Statistical Profile of Cuban Women" published last year showed that women spend 39 hours per week working outside the home and slightly more than 34 hours per week on domestic chores.
Men, meanwhile, work 43 hours outside the home each week, and 12 hours at home, where they generally perform support work, assisting women, and rarely are solely responsible for domestic tasks.
According to INSAT's Guerrero, in addition to the effort implied by work in the home, there women are exposed to toxic chemicals and other physical health risks, including excessive heat, humidity and poor lighting.
"Everything seems to indicate there is a rather large proportion of women workers who feel more protected in the public work environment than in the private environment of the home," Guerrero pointed out.
In his opinion, "the problems of couples frequently involve the conflict of roles at the expense of labour or domestic activity," which demands a social re-evaluation of work, both inside and outside the home.
[c] 2000, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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