(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 28, 2013
Women, Workers and Changes in
A FIRST and
lasting impression of
Cuba, is the presence of working women in every sphere from
the security guards
at the airport tarmac to the shop assistants, to the customs
officers to those at the tourist desk to teachers in
schools, doctors and
nurses in hospitals. Perhaps it is the leading role of so
many women in public
office, in every profession and in public service and their
independence that makes Cuba rank among the top countries
who have a secure
environment for women. Women are safe on the streets in
The general secretary of the Cuban Women’s Federation (CWF) and member of the Central Committee of the Party, Maria Teresa Amarelle stated with legitimate pride in women’s achievements, “we have won our positions through the hard work of Cuban women in every walk of life and the receptivity of our Government and Party leadership.” The organisation has a membership of 4.2 million, around 88 per cent of the female population above the age of 14.
AN ENABLING SECURE
framework for crimes
against women in
What are the
With the advent of
When the statistics of the numbers of women in different professions were reeled off by the women activists of the CWF it was just astounding. The percentages of women in different spheres is: University enrolment 60 per cent; Graduates 62 per cent; Scientists 58 per cent; health professionals 78 per cent; doctors 80 per cent; educational sector 60 per cent; State sector jobs 48 per cent. Women are paid equal salaries for the same work. The higher salaries are in education and health where women are well represented. In the judiciary also women are well represented
For us in
In the Central Committee, 42 per cent are women with one woman member of the 15 member Polit Bureau. In four provinces, the provincial committee secretary is a woman. In 58 municipalities, the Party committee is headed by a woman.
The record of women’s role and development in Socialist Cuba is inspiring and shows the vast superiority, in spite of numerous problems of the Socialist system over the capitalist system in the struggle for women’s equality.
The meeting of the
the leaders of the trade union movement was most educative.
the head of the International department of the Cuban
Workers Federation had
some years ago attended the CITU national conference and
seemed well aware of
some of the problems that workers face here. In
The most important
Unemployment in Cuba is extremely low, because the State has taken the responsibility of providing jobs for all. Yet without the expansion of production, this has basically meant a paid workforce without work or with too little work.
The highest employment is in the service sector with 52 per cent. Of the 48 per cent in the productive sector, 18 per cent are white collar employees, thus actual workers are only around 30 per cent of the employed.
In this situation, the government decided to reduce the numbers in the State sector by half a million, opening up opportunities for self employment. There are rules for self-employment and the development of small enterprises, the number of workers who can be employed strictly restricted, so as to control the growth of the private sector and exploitative labour relations. After widespread discussions it is decided that this could be implemented only step by step with social security protection guaranteed .Unlike in India where the hire and fire rules apply, in Cuba where the workforce is found surplus, alternative employment or skill training for self-employment along with bank loans with subsidised rates of interest are provided. For six months, the worker is paid his salary to enable him/her to have a period for adjustment for the alternative work. Along with subsidised food, free education for the children as well as for health, cheap though limited housing, the relocation is cushioned more than in any other country.
With the tremendous achievement of an increasing life expectancy and with the State as a guarantor for universal pensions, the number of people getting pensions has increased. Pensions are approximately 60 per cent of the salary and the government is protecting the right to pension. Workers who are earning higher salaries pay a contribution to maintain the pension system for others and the social security system as a whole.
The trade union leaders were strongly supportive of the government’s new policies which they call “updating the economy.” Our job is to protect the workers they said, but we cannot destroy socialism by being only consumers and not producers. We require to take strong measures to ensure increase in productivity and in expansion of production. Workers have to play a leading role.
They seemed also quite clear that the process has to take into account a protection of the workers rights. There is an understanding that there should not and cannot be subsidy cuts in those subsidies mentioned above. Cubans are immensely proud of their free health and education system and would not support any whittling down of these rights. These subsidies are also crucial because minimum wages have remained at the same level for several years, nor has there been an increase in wages or salaries except in the case of productivity linked sectors like in the sugar mills where workers earn much more than the average wage of 400 to 500 pesos a month. Yet Cuban workers do much better in terms of quality of life than their counterparts in most countries.
There are numerous cultural centers, holiday homes throughout the country for workers. Cuba is a country with a rich culture. Everywhere there are workers clubs promoting music and dance and different forms of cultural expression.
In a workers State, a socialist State how are labour disputes resolved? The process in Cuba is a fascinating example of grassroot democracy. Every month workers hold meetings at the factory level which discuss work related as well as wider political matters. At that level when workers raise problems, a sort of informal arbitration takes place on what are considered minor issues. The formal structure is of arbitration courts which have elected members, the majority of whom are workers. There is one judicial officer, two from the administration and three from the workers. The verdict of the court is final and the administration has to implement it. Workers however have the right to appeal if they believe the procedure was weighted against them. However since workers have their own representatives in the court, there are very few cases of appeal. What is stressed and emphasised in Cuba is the principle of participatory democracy and workers consultation on all matters pertaining to them and their work.
A prime example of this is that before the economic changes were proposed, the president of Cuba, Raul Castro met with workers representatives and trade union leaders for wide-ranging consultations. It was stressed repeatedly, that since the working class has a critical role to play there can and will be no change without consultation and agreement. This is an example of a socialist democracy that is so far removed from the experience of our workers and trade unions in neo-liberal India when decisions are bulldozed, workers thrown out of jobs, where there is no social security, only despair and frustration.
In all the discussions that the delegation had, what was particularly striking was the high degree of commitment to Socialism, the high degree of political consciousness. As we walked through the offices of the trade unions we saw a huge poster of the Cuban Five incarcerated unjustly in US jails: the poster read “Obama Give me Five!” It is symbol of the Cuban spirit to resist any and every effort of the imperialist powers to strangle their beautiful, brave nation.