Monday, May 18, 2009


Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

The news on the Havana channel could be described as slightly closer to reality than that on the Television National News, small details make me think there are slightly younger people behind the script. The other day there were talking about the unions and they carried three interviews: two man-on-the-street interviews and one with the head of a union.

The union head explained, not very clearly, that Cuban unions have two missions: to represent the worker and the State. The first was the one everyone knew, fighting for the rights of the worker and ensuring they are not trampled; the second, a little ambiguous, refers to defending the rights of the State, which has the “goodness” to legally recognize the unions, and it was their main task because they, for their part, defended the work of the revolution. He argues that there were contradictions between the interests, but no antagonism. Honestly, I didn’t understand a thing.

The workers interviewed on the street said that their union didn’t exactly represent them, one said “they had to improve the situation.”

When I worked for the State as a teacher I had a contract with an indefinite duration, the type of contract that doesn’t give the worker the right to hardly anything (no retirement, no vacation). After two years I tried to get a fixed contract, as I assumed was my right, but I hit a bureaucratic block: I couldn’t be fixed because the “seat” of teacher was not contemplated at my center.

I talked to the union and asked its help in intervening with the directors and pressing for the creation of a seat. I began to pay almost 100 pesos a year to the union, to go to the meetings, to raise my problem… but nothing happened. The head of my union seemed to be concerned only with collecting the money, attending the meetings (at which she said absolutely nothing) and creating an unblemished Record (everything in order, everything under control). In this same period a colleague of mine got pregnant. Since leave was not covered in our contract, she was informed she wouldn’t get maternity leave. From her first through her eighth month she was working and we were pursuing all the ways to make it happen: we accomplished nothing. The union leaders made jokes in bad taste in the hallways: don’t let me see that you’re pregnant too.

A few months later I stopped paying the union and the following one I cancelled my poor contract, renewable every three months.

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