The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.60/No.12           March 25, 1996 
`The Right To Work Is One Of Highest Ideals Of Revolutionaries'
Central Organization of Cuban Workers discusses theses in preparation for congress of trade union federation  
Printed below is the second portion of the Theses for the 17th Congress of the Central Organization of Cuban Workers (CTC). This document is being discussed at thousands of factory assemblies and other workplace meetings throughout Cuba in preparation for the congress of the country's nationwide trade union federation. The workers assemblies to discuss this document began January 15 and will last through March 15. The Congress is scheduled for April 25-30 in Havana.

The CTC leadership has issued a call to trade unionists and other workers from around the world to attend the congress (for travel from the United States see ad below).

CTC leaders, including the organization's general secretary, Pedro Ross, will also travel to Montreal for a March 15-16 conference in solidarity with Cuba sponsored by the Canadian Labour Congress. This event will help build international participation from North America to the CTC gathering.

The theses, prepared by the federation's National Committee after a round of CTC conferences organized in every municipality, consist of 11 sections. Last week the Militant published the first installment - the preamble and the first three sections (see box with contents below).

The second installment, printed below, consists of sections four through seven.

The theses were published as a special supplement to the Nov. 20, 1995, issue of Trabajadores, the CTC's weekly newspaper. Translation from Spanish and footnotes are by the Militant.

IV. The decisive effort to increase sugar production
54. Until sugar production begins to increase, the Cuban economy will not advance solidly on the path to recovery.(1)

55. The last three harvests registered a steady decline in production that cost the country considerable income. In effect, that decline undercut the positive impact of the growth attained in 1994, and so far in 1995, in tourism, in most branches of industry, and in other areas.

56. This year the country secured financing abroad, at very high interest rates, to provide sugar production with the minimum indispensable resources to increase the availability of raw materials, a precondition for halting the decline in sugar production and beginning a firm stage of recovery.

57. As these theses are being discussed, the harvest is either about to start or has already begun in many parts of the country. When the 17th Congress of the CTC begins its final sessions, the battle for sugar production will for the most part be over.

58. That is why it is timely and appropriate to include in these theses an appeal to all workers and trade union leaders who will be part of the coming harvest - an appeal to carry out their responsibilities with the full consciousness that in harvesting or processing sugar, they are helping to save the homeland and to improve the life of our heroic people.

59. Once again the sugar workers and all the workers of the various enterprises that take part in the harvest have been entrusted with a task that is decisive and indispensable for the advance of the economy. Each of them plays an important role in this relentless machete charge of the new Mambís in this, the 100th anniversary of the invasion led by Gómez and Maceo.(2)

60. The importance of this harvest is such that we must bring to it the greatest possible will to fight, dedication to the task, and attention to detail in carrying it out. The aim is to reduce to a minimum the errors that occurred in the recent campaigns, which increased general costs and resulted in a loss of sugar.

61. The responsibility of the sugar workers is enormous; they are entering the front lines of a battle we cannot afford to lose.

62. We address them today with a message of encouragement and confidence, and with the pledge that they can count on the support of the entire trade union movement, the workers, and the people.

63. As the 17th Congress gets under way, there will be no better news for the revolution, for our commander in chief, for the delegates, and for a grateful homeland than word of a harvest that registers higher levels of production and efficiency, and that begins a sustained cycle of increase that will lift production to the levels the national economy requires.

V. The problem of employment and the reorganization of the labor force
64. Employment, the right to work, is one of the highest ideals of Cuban revolutionaries and of the workers movement in particular. Our socialist society would not be true to itself if at any time it passively and indifferently contemplated the existence of men and women, able and willing to work, who are without access to employment.

65. Employment, however, cannot continue to be seen as solely the result of political will. A job is, in the first place, the consequence of economic realities, and it is these realities that determine the quantity and quality of the jobs available.

66. Increasing production and efficiency is the only real and lasting road to increasing the number of jobs and keeping it in tune with the available workforce, including those who reach working age each year. Nevertheless, you cannot speak of a more efficient economy without first creating the conditions necessary to increase the productivity of labor and maximize the use of available resources.

67. To do this it is essential, among other fundamental steps, to begin to reorganize the personnel at each workplace, beginning with those with assured productivity, those that are associated with generating hard currency or with import replacement, and those that are related to other activities that are vitally important for the country.

68. The 17th Congress of the CTC should reaffirm and enrich the conclusions of our revolutionary government on the reorganization of labor, conclusions it has drawn on the basis of the views expressed by workers and the union movement.(3)

69. The fundamental principle in reorganizing labor is that no worker will be left to his or her own resources as a consequence of this process. Reorganization will be carried out with a spirit of determination to find employment alternatives for those whose jobs are eliminated.

70. This determination is part and parcel of the correct view that reorganization of the labor force is more than simply an adjustment in the size of the workforce to reduce the wages paid by a given enterprise, branch, or sector.

71. The true real aim of this reorganization is to help increase social productivity, to create more values with the material, financial, and human resources that are within our reach.

72. Our social system, with its advantages, should help us to propose not only rationalizing but restructuring the distribution of our labor force. At present, we have too many people in a number of centers and too few in such vital areas of the economy as the canefields, the sugar industry, and agriculture. Many jobs directly related to production and a large number of useful and worthy jobs in health care and the service sector also remain to be filled.

73. The Central Organization of Cuban Workers and the unions will struggle to ensure an understanding everywhere that the same energy - not more nor less - should be devoted to the rationalization effort and to finding new jobs for workers who may end up being available for them.

74. Experience has shown that there are possibilities for creating new jobs in the work centers and enterprises themselves, with the aim of providing products and services that do not require investment but fill social needs.(4)

75. At the same time, we must recognize the central importance of areas and municipalities that, under the leadership of local governments, take effective steps to create useful jobs in the big centers of production and services, meet the shortfall in the labor force for sugar and agricultural production, and create new jobs in areas that include organoponic farms(5), orchards, reforestation projects, plants that manufucture alternative materials for housing construction, and local industries.

76. Discussions at the 17th Congress are an excellent place to stress the need to eradicate the criteria of accepting only such jobs that are totally adapted to the preferences of each person, without considering that everyone must also adjust to the requirement of his or her job at a given moment and postpone their just aspirations until these can be met.(6)

77. Under the circumstances created by the rationalization of the workforce, it must also be stressed that our duty is to explain that the strongest claim to a job is suitability for it. All other considerations are secondary.

78. Suitability is understood as a set of qualifications for a given job, as agreed to jointly by the administration and the union, and without either party unilaterally being able to alter these requirements.

79. Likewise, we call for a rigorous struggle for the rights of working women, which should not be undermined by any tendencies or justifications of a technocratic or economist character. Our 17th Congress should adopt as its own and commit its support to the platform of defending and advancing women's rights that was put forward with realism and a deeply revolutionary spirit by the last congress of the Federation of Cuban Women.(7)

80. We reiterate our willingness to seek and find balanced formulas that offer job opportunities to those young people who reach working age in this period when employment opportunities are limited.

81. The union movement insists on the importance of retaining trained and experienced personnel at the workplace, even though temporarily they may have no tasks to perform. They will be needed tomorrow when conditions permit increased production.

82. The training and retraining of workers is an important source of employment stability, which the unions should defend in face of any indifference or thoughtlessness by a given administrative body. Moreover, this should be viewed not merely as a conjunctural tool to confront the reduction in employment. Rather it is a permanent prerequisite for technological development, one that also enables workers to increase their level of skill and acquire new trades.

83. It should be made clear, nevertheless, that we do not advocate the indiscriminate and universal application of this practice. We believe it should be implemented selectively and on a case-by-case basis, using economic criteria. It should be seen as an investment aimed at preserving and developing the value of the workforce, taking into account the foreseeable future of each economic sector, branch, or enterprise.

84. The union movement should be vigilant and not permit violations of the rights of idled workers, registered with the employment service. For that purpose the union should maintain its links with the idled workers, look after them in every way and make an ongoing effort to locate new jobs for them. It is essential that the union act ahead of time and work out with the administration how to fill jobs in each new or expanded workplace as these open up.

85. Existing legislation recognizes the authority of the union to give its agreement both when jobs are eliminated and when workers are taken on. The reality, however, is that in the majority of cases this provision is not observed. Our congress should emphatically call for maintaining and strictly enforcing this union right, and put its foot down on any irregularities or violations of workers' legitimate interests.

VI. Workers' wages
86. Our society has reached a critical point where wages, the reorganization of finances, the revaluing of the peso, and the need to restructure the labor force come together in a complex and deeply interrelated whole that we must understand in order to move forward.(8)

87. There has been appreciable progress in absorbing excess currency in circulation, as well as in reducing the deficit in the national budget.(9) This has had a positive impact in reducing absenteeism, increasing labor discipline, and raising productivity. Additional progress is needed, however, to reach the desired financial stability, and for this process to be fully reflected in economic efficiency, and thereby in improvement in people's lives.

88. The peso has already regained some value, but its purchasing power - which depends on the re-establishment of the country's productive capacity - is still severely depressed. As a result, there are many working people whose family incomes are insufficient to meet their needs.(10)

89. It is not possible to understand this phenomenon without linking the question of workers' wages and purchasing power to the situation created by the years of the special period, with its shortages of energy, raw materials, and other items necessary for production.

90. In these conditions there was no other option except to run the workplaces far below capacity and even shut many of them down. In practice this has meant subsidizing hundreds of thousands of workers - some at home while others are still at their job, but producing less. Moreover, it is well known that the country entered the special period carrying the flaw of inflated payrolls. The rectification process(11) attempted to address this problem, but was unsuccessful due to the short time it had.

91. To stabilize production it is reasonable to introduce material incentives where resources exist to do so. The workforce can be adjusted to the size really needed. Other measures can also be taken to raise efficiency and productivity, so long as we are careful that they always rise at a faster pace than the average wage.

92. The possibility of increasing workers' incomes can be found, therefore, first of all in the sectors, branches, and enterprises that are linked to exports or to import- replacement, which are the areas that must generate the resources to revitalize the rest of the economy. This does not rule out attention to other areas that provide vital goods and services for the population, as conditions improve in the country.

93. As a short-term measure, some of these sectors have implemented various "incentive programs," including the sale from time to time of essential goods to the best workers, or the payment of a certain portion of their wages in convertible pesos.(12) These have been transitory measures, justified by our economic situation, but in the future, when conditions return to normal, our policy must be that wages, paid in Cuban pesos, must become the fundamental channel for work incentives.

94. We must bear in mind that the ratio between the social wage and money wages is tending to change in the direction of increasing the role of the latter as the means of distribution.

95. Our wages are low, and cannot increase without an increase in productivity. The first step, then, is to ensure a direct material correlation between today's wages, on the one hand, and production and efficiency, on the other.

96. Without necessarily changing current wage scales, workers can increase their incomes through the linking of wages to production. This is especially true in sugar and agricultural production, where an individual's pay can be linked to what is produced in a given area. It is also true in any other sector where different systems of payment can be used, systems that increase the variable portion of wages and thereby provide an incentive for harder work. Those who do the most should be paid the most; the union movement will support such measures.

VII. Union action regarding collective bargaining agreements and labor legislation
97. At the heart of our revolutionary union work is the principle, insisted upon so often by Lázaro Peña, that responsibilities and rights must go hand in hand.(13) That means we must be firm in exercising our ability to explain the ideas and sentiments of the workers and in defending their just interests. At the same time, however, we must demand they fully meet their responsibilities.

98. The conditions in which we must carry out our mission, now and in the future, underscore the necessity to pay careful attention to the fundamental principles behind our actions, and to ensure that contracts and legal documents are based upon these principles.

99. The 17th Congress, taking into account the new circumstances that prevail in our country, should spotlight the decisive role collective bargaining agreements play. They are the chief instrument guiding relations between the union and the workers, on the one hand, and administrative bodies (whether state, mixed, or of some other type), on the other, and serve as the foundation for the actions we take.

100. In previous periods, for reasons that are well-known, there was practically no possibility for major conflicts to arise between management and workers.

101. Today there are a variety of economic entities, with rights and powers that have changed. In these circumstances, it is the collective bargaining agreement, together with political and ethical factors, that must serve as a genuine guarantee of order, justice, coexistence, and legality in every workplace. To accomplish this, these agreements must express the general objectives that the revolutionary state demands and defends.

102. In these new circumstances the conditions in which the union leadership carries out its work are increasingly important. These conditions must be part of the negotiations carried out.

103. The collective bargaining agreements express a legal commitment and therefore must be carried out to the letter. It is vital, however, that this legal force be complemented by the unbreakable will of the union cadres to win respect from both employers and employees for the norms the agreements establish.

104. Training of both leaders and union activists, and of all workers, in the culture of law and the authority of the law, must be an integral part of this proposal. Our educational system can and must do much along these lines.

105. At the same time, we insist on the importance of revitalizing teaching and research in the field of labor law. This is an area that unfortunately has been weakened in recent years, but one that will play an essential role in the study and codification of the entire spectrum of our labor relations, which are increasingly becoming more complex and fluid.

106. The CTC and the unions consider it equally necessary, when our transformations have advanced and been sufficiently consolidated, to propose a complete revision of the labor code and other labor regulations currently in effect, with the aim of adjusting them to the new realities and requirements of the country's labor conditions.


1. Sugarcane production collapsed to record lows in the years 1993-95 as shortages of fuel, fertilizers, pesticides, and spare parts for cane-cutting machinery mounted. Heavy rains and flooding also took a toll. The acute shortages were triggered by the collapse of aid and trade at preferential prices with the former Soviet bloc countries, beginning in 1989. The 1994 harvest fell to 4 million tons from 4.2 million the previous year, less than half the 8.4 million tons produced in 1990. Last year, another disastrous crop yielded a 50-year low of 3.3 million tons. These shortfalls further cut into Cuba's capacity to import needed goods, since sugar remains the country's main export crop and a primary source of hard currency.

2. Mambí is a Cuban word that refers to the 19th century independence fighters against Spanish colonial rule.

Máximo Gómez (1836-1905) was a native of Santo Domingo who became a leader of the Cuban revolutionary armies during the 1868-78 and 1895-98 independence wars. He became commander in chief of Cuban independence forces in 1870.

Antonio Maceo (1845-1896) was a prominent military leader and strategist in the Cuban wars of independence from Spain. A leader of the 1895-96 invasion of the western provinces, Maceo was a symbol of revolutionary intransigence in Cuba. He was killed in battle Dec. 7, 1896. Last year marked the centennial of the invasion of the western provinces.

3.The restructuring and reallocation of the workforce began in 1986 with the rectification process (see footnote no. 11), well before the current economic crisis Cuba is living through. Efforts centered on reducing inflated administrative layers not directly involved in production while significantly expanding construction.

The abrupt termination of long-standing trade relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries led to a virtual collapse of production in Cuba in the opening of the 1990s. This is what the Cubans refer to as the "special period." In 1993 Cuban industry operated at 15 percent of capacity, down from 20 percent in 1992. By 1995 that figure increased to 35 percent. In 1989, industry had operated at more than 85 percent of capacity. Imports in early 1994 stood at one- quarter of their 1989 level, and gross domestic product at an estimated 65 percent of the 1989 figure.

While production substantially collapsed, the large majority of workers remained on the job and received all or most of their wages-fueling inflation and feeding demoralization as "excess personnel" had little or nothing to do. These problems began to be addressed in 1994 with a series of leadership moves, fiscal measures, and increased efforts to reallocate the workforce. In 1995 industrial and food production edged upward with a growth of 2.5 percent in the Gross Domestic Product. The reorganization of the labor force underway includes substantial reductions of personnel in government ministries and in the armed forces.

4. In some industries the production process has been modified to manufacture new products. In dairy processing, for example, workers have adapted machinery and put on new lines to produce soy milk and yogurt since fresh or powdered milk is lacking (see "Workers in Cuba increase their management role through factory assemblies" in Feb. 6, 1995, Militant.)

5.The term in Spanish is organoponico, or organic agriculture. It describes cultivation of fruits and vegetables, especially perishable ones, using specially prepared organic mediums for fertilizing.

6. According to new regulations adopted in 1995, workers who lose their job receive 100 percent of their wages the first month and 70 percent for a period of three months. Beyond that, benefits depend on years of employment. Those with higher seniority also get preference in picking options for alternative employment. If workers whose jobs have been eliminated turn down offers to relocate elsewhere, including working in agriculture, they eventually lose these benefits.

7. The mass organization of Cuban women founded in August 1960. The congress referred to here took place in March 1995.

8. Wages for Cubans continue to reflect the high social wage represented by free medical care and education, low rents, and subsidized prices for basic food rations.Today, however, self- employed workers, especially those with special skills, often earn many times the salary of most factory workers. Individuals who receive hard currency from relatives abroad, or from special bonuses in some industries, are able to purchase scarce essential items like soap and oil that many Cubans are unable to obtain.

9. As production plummeted in the first half of the 1990s, layoffs were kept to a minimum. According to finance minister José Luis Rodríguez, government subsidies to state enterprises jumped 73 percent between 1989 and 1993. The government financed the growing budget deficit by printing more pesos, a policy that fed inflation. At the beginning of 1994 there were some 12 billion excess pesos in circulation, since most Cubans continued to receive their wages but there was little in the market these workers could buy. A series of fiscal and other measures adopted by the country's National Assembly in 1994 and 1995 resulted in a significant decrease in the excess currency in circulation and the lowering of inflation by the end of last year.

10. The official exchange rate of the Cuban currency remains one peso for one U.S. dollar. On the street the dollar is now exchanged for about 25 pesos, up from the low of the 150-1 rate in the summer of 1994.

11.The rectification process was initiated in 1986 by the Communist Party of Cuba to reverse the mounting negative political consequences of the economic planning and management policies the Cuban leadership had adopted in the early 1970s modeled on those of the bureaucratic Soviet regime.

Measures adopted during rectification included steps to reduce growing social inequalities; cutbacks in administrative and management personnel; sharp attacks on corruption; increased reliance on volunteer construction brigades to build badly needed housing, hospitals, day-care centers, and schools; and full-time volunteer labor contingents to take on larger construction and civil engineering projects such as roads, factories, and bridges.

The shortages and economic dislocation of the past several years have forced the Cuban government and Communist Party to put aside most of the programs set in motion in the latter half of the 1980s.

12. The convertible peso is currency issued by the Cuban government that can be used only inside Cuba as an equivalent to the U.S. dollar to purchase scarce essential items available in dollar stores. It is used to pay the special bonuses workers receive in hard currency in certain industries.

13. Lázaro Peña (1911-1974), a leader of the pro-Moscow Communist Party of Cuba (later Popular Socialist Party), was general secretary of the Confederation of Cuban Workers from its founding in 1939 until 1944. After the triumph of the Cuban revolution in 1959 under the leadership of the July 26 Movement and Rebel Army headed by Fidel Castro, the trade union movement was restructured as the Central Organization of Cuban Workers. Lázaro Peña served as general secretary from 1961-66 and from 1973-74.

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