Do Cuba’s Workers Deserve a Chance?
January 7, 2017
By Raudiel F. Pena Barrios (Progreso Semanal)
HAVANA TIMES — The reflections and comments that I will present this
time are a response to events which have taken public spotlight in Cuban
and foreign media recently.
First there was the news, which was later repeated by the official Cuban
Communist Party newspaper Granma, that a French company responsible for
building a huge hotel in the country’s capital had hired workers coming
from India. Maybe the most note-worthy point about this whole issue was
the explicit recognition that they were more productive and efficient
than Cuban workers.
Then, the second leading government newspaper Juventud Rebelde quoted a
CEO from a Cuban company who stated that workers from India involved in
this building project were performing three or four times more than the
However, what wasn’t said in the Cuban press is that our builders, and
generally-speaking any worker (professional or not), are unable to be
hired directly by foreign companies which are operating in the country,
even though our work force wants this and companies have agreed to the
terms and conditions of their contracts.
I believe that we should ask ourselves what a Cuban worker’s performance
would be if they could earn similar wages or even a percentage less than
what foreign workers earn working in our country. We’d have to see what
a fellow countryman’s efficiency and productivity levels would be if
they could earn, for example, 1500 CUC per month, which is what the
Indians are earning or maybe just 500 CUC even. They can’t be compared
for the simple reason that the same parameters aren’t used in the two
More recently, I was surprised to hear that the Ministry of Labor and
Social Security put a resolution into effect, which allows companies
established at the Mariel Special Development Zone to hire foreign
individuals who don’t live in Cuba, to make up a max. of 15% of its
total workforce. The regulatory provision specifies that these should be
personnel who will perform management duties or some technical job
positions. With regard to the latter, we can think about experts with
knowledge and experience in productive processes or services, which
companies established in Mariel can offer. The government press also
echoed this news; sparking a wide range of responses.
Ever since the country began to talk about the Mariel project, both in
government speeches, the and official press as well as from experts, it
was said that one of the good things about it was the possibility of
creating new and various jobs. I don’t doubt that this will happen.
However, I find myself asking whether we aren’t putting the Cuban
workforce on an inferior level because of the legal framework that
exists today for hiring national workers, which as we all know can only
take place through government employment agencies and now add the chance
to hire foreign workers? Nobody can expect job competitiveness between
people who don’t earn the same wages, even when they are doing the same job.
Furthermore, I believe that behind the current landscape lies a more
complex reality for the country’s present and future. While we give
companies in Mariel the opportunity to directly employ foreigners, we
have young professionals right here in Cuba who are just as skilled as
anybody else; and the worse thing of all is that they are leaving the
country in droves, everyday, taking their thirst for personal well being
with them. A thirst which they can’t satisfy in Cuba because, among many
other factors, the majority of them are unable to access the foreign
private sector of our economy. Many of them don’t know how; others
aren’t trusted to form part of the so-called job offers at the
government employment agencies; and others have to put up with the
handicap that their expertise isn’t needed for the companies which are
establishing themselves in Cuba.
It’s all too easy to criticize whoever decides to abandon the country
looking for a better future. It’s still much easier to call those who
immigrate having secured a job beforehand in their field of expertise,
in line with their studies, “defectors”. However, nobody thought about
getting rid of all of the political, administrative and mental (the
worst) barriers that exist around the chance of Cubans being hired
exclusively by foreign entitites established in Cuba without any kind of
intervention. And among those who stay, you have to think about the
thousands of Cubans who have a hard-earned university degree working in
the most varied of private jobs; they could be a rental car driver in
one of our old Chevrolets or a waiter in a restaurant.
In the face of this situation, isn’t it better for foreign companies to
specialize by employing our own professionals, who have the skills they
are looking for? It would even be much more worth their while
economically-speaking as they would pay a great deal of money for a
foreign trainer to come for a short period and they probably wouldn’t
pay the same monthly amount to a Cuban employee. Wouldn’t it be better
to let everybody earn what every company is willing to pay them, and
therefore prevent them from leaving the country?
According to Article 45 in the Cuban Constitution, work in a socialist
society is a right, a duty and a source of pride for every Cuban
citizen. This work is paid in accordance with its quality and quantity;
by working, economic and social demands are being met, the choice of
worker and their skills and qualifications. Without wanting to carry
out an exhaustive analysis of the aforementioned article, and assuming
that a lot of phenomena take place today which infringe the potential of
its content; I think that our economy’s updating process should be more
centered around it functioning as it’s supposed to and ensuring that its
clauses are met.
Last but not least, if we have to take the worker’s choice into account,
their skills and qualifications, then we should get rid of the legal
hurdles which hinder these choices so that our workforce’s skills and
knowledge reach their maximum expression. Maybe the day we’re able to
make these adjustments we won’t have workers from India building hotels
in Havana, or lawyers and engineers working as cab drivers and waiters.
Source: Do Cuba’s Workers Deserve a Chance? – Havana Times.org –