The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) has launched a campaign for the defense of workers and labor rights, based on the fact that economic openness can not be built upon the basis of complicity of foreign companies with the Cuban government to perpetuate serious labor and human rights violations promoted by the legislation that is actually enforced on the island.
The FHRC urges foreign entities, corporations and governments to demand that Havana exercises the right to hire Cuban employees in a free, direct, fair and non-discriminatory manner. As part of the campaign FHRC published a press release stating as follows :
Campaign for Labor Rights in Cuba
The economic opening toward Cuba that is taking place in various countries cannot be built on the basis of a complicity of foreign firms with the Cuban government to perpetuate serious labor and basic human rights violations promoted by the legislation in force on the island. We urge foreign entities, corporations and governments, to demand from the Cuban Government their right to establish contracts with Cuban employees freely, directly, fairly and on nondiscriminatory basis.
The existing laws and procedures -which foreign investors in Cuba are required to respect- impose the violation of internationally accepted human and labor rights. The “joint ventures” in Cuba cannot select, hire or pay workers directly: this is done through another state-run company, which acting as an intermediary receives payments by foreign investors in convertible currency and pays workers an infinitely smaller fraction in non-convertible Cuban pesos. It is estimated that, based on this arrangement, the state-run company confiscates about 80 to 96 percent of what foreign investors pay for their workers. A similar system of exploitation is imposed on Cuban professionals (doctors, teachers, athletes, etc.) that work in other countries.
During the selection and recruitment of workers, intermediary state-run enterprises (as ACOREX) use discriminatory criteria of “political suitability”. Throughout this process workers cannot rely on non-state organizations to defend themselves, as the independent trade unions are prohibited while the judiciary and the mass media are controlled by the state. Public protests and labor strikes are penalized. These mechanisms of recruitment, hiring, compensation and prohibition of independent unions violate several conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO), including some ratified by Cuba. Some of these violations are based on administrative regulations contrary even to the provisions of the Cuban Constitution and the Labor Code.
To deal with this reality, dissident Gustavo Arcos Bergnes introduced first in 1994, the “Arcos Principles” which in the United States were supported, among other organizations, by the AFL-CIO. Now that the Cuban government has resumed its effort to attract foreign investors, the challenge of demanding respect for human and labor rights is increasingly important.
In this context, the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC / FDHC) and Solidarity of Cuban Workers (STC), have decided to work together from now on three areas:
a) To promote an alliance with trade unions in the countries of foreign investors operating in Cuba to support the rights of Cuban workers and require their companies to respect these rights.
b) To document before multilateral agencies of labor and human rights-as well as governments, especially those hiring Cuban professionals- and before the global trade union movement, the way that laws and regulations in force in Cuba violate human and labor rights of Cuban workers and to demand the cessation of such violations.
c) To promote a campaign within Cuba to demand from the authorities changes to existing laws and labor codes, so they cannot continue to violate “legally” the rights of workers, so that there is a real legal framework that really corresponds with universally accepted rights in the Covenants, Conventions and declarations of the United Nations and the International Labor Organization (ILO).
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