Cooperation and international solidarity multiply in Cuban unionism

24 October 2018 19:00

Carlos Antonio de Dios Oquendo, General Secretary of the National Trade Union of Construction Workers (SNTC) of Cuba.

What is the current political context of Cuba?

Cuba is currently in a process of updating its economic model. This is a complex and strategic process, which involves society in all spheres. This update should be made without renouncing to the socialism construction. Socialism is irrevocable for the Cuban people since is based on the revolution concept identified by our commander and historical leader, Fidel Castro. We strongly support this concept also in the idea of Fidel to “change what it needs to be changed”.

The change we are working on represents an achievement of an independent, sovereign, democratic, socialist, prosperous and sustainable nation. In this vision of the nation, we must be clear that Cuba is a poor and underdeveloped country in material resources, although with very high human potential. We will never renounce our principles of solidarity and cooperation.

At this time, we have 55,000 Cuban medical collaborators scattered on all continents. An important group of professor are teaching reading and writing to humans from other parts of the world. We have more than 29 million people in the world who have been literate with the "I Can" method.

More than 105 countries of the world have felt the direct cooperation of Cuba in benefit of the people. Those principles are irreplaceable in the conduct and action of the Cubans. This is what strengthens the politics of the State, the government and the Party.

How are the unions and particularly the SNTC participating in the consultation of the new constitution of Cuba?

The structure of employment has varied in Cuba. We had a predominantly state economy. Today, economic management has opened up to other possibilities. We have state companies, joint ventures, 100 per cent foreign capital companies and cooperatives. The new constitutional guidelines allow also small and medium-sized enterprises, in both state and private management.

The construction sector itself has more than 40,000 non-state workers (self-employed workers). The sector also has more than 60 cooperatives and several joint ventures. That presupposes a change in all legislation. Hence the need to update, transform and reformulate our constitution. It was necessary to institutionalize the experience for the operation of all State powers, which are the ones who guarantee democracy.

In this constitution, we give institutional validity to all these changes, but we also think that the change to the property does not presuppose the accumulation of wealth or property.

Cubans went to a popular referendum to reform chapter 5 of the constitution when the United States government increased its blockade and aggression against Cuba. In that chapter, we emphasized that socialism is irrevocable.

This constitution also includes some aspects of gender identity. It establishes that the person is free to choose, from their love feelings, with whom they can get married, without sex or gender distinction.

A concept in labor matters that Cuba already fulfilled is equal pay for equal work. This will be maintained, but now it is explicit in the constitutional text because it is one of the Millennium Development Goals.

We want our workers in the construction sector to be part of the process of popular consultation. Fidel taught us the method and the way to do it: listening to the people. Therefore, in this process, we already have a protagonist, combative, critical and patriotic participation, because even when the change in the constitution is critical, it most consolidates socialism in Cuba.

Socialism in Cuba is the science of example. Example in defense of human dignity, social justice, solidarity, cooperation, internationalism, integration of people, but also in defense of all approved commitments signed by Cuba in the United Nations and different forums.

From the cooperation of BWI to SNTC, together with IGBAU of Germany, what impacts or results for workers can you list?

The main results of improvements are in communication. We can say that we have had a great transformation. The construction union is the only one that has its own newspaper, as well as a magazine. Our union is also venture into social network such as Facebook profile. We have also our very own website.

In all companies where we have union representation, we count with bulletins. In addition, we have noticed more interaction between our union branches in the social networks and on website.

We have also obtained technology from this project. Basic means such as smartphones, laptops, and devices were obtained in order to allow workers to develop new channels and new communication codes for dialogue with union leaders.

From this cooperation, a significant group of union leaders have participated in international seminars as well. More than 4000 union leaders are informed of our publications. Today, the newspaper reaches more than 4,286 officials from all union branches. However, we must think that there still so many work to do since we have 198,000 members, including state workers, non-state workers and retirees. Another impact is "The Cuban Builder" magazine, which reaches different unions and leaders in Latin America through Facebook.

We send a message of commitment and gratitude from all Cuban builders to BWI and German union, its affiliates and directors, for that selfless collaboration not only in the construction union of Cuba, but in the rest of the Cuban unions. We would like to highlight that the project has been very useful through the implementation of the Protocol of Collaboration between us and the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI). Our main result is the improvement of communication with our affiliates, affiliates of the rest of the sectors of Cuba and other unions in Latin America.

What are the main valuable benefits SNTC have obtained from its relationship with BWI?

We both defend social justice based on principles of unity of action. This is highly valuable for us. We value the unity of action in benefit of just causes, opposition to oppression, elimination of labor deregulations, abuses of the capital, injustice, unemployment and misery. Just defending workers’ cause we can defend people’s cause since is in the society where our worker’s families and children live.

We have to continue articulating actions in different international scenarios, using the tool of multilateralism in benefit of workers in order to defend what is conquest, defend the most deprived and the use of the new information and communication technologies. We need to keep working on empowering our workers in the use of technology as a tool of socialism and solidarity.

Thinking about the future of cooperation between BWI and SNTC, what issues could be considered a priority to consolidate?

We are very interested in one topic: collective bargaining agreement. Labour scenarios are changing; we will be interacting with transnational companies as powerful companies. We have to learn more about it to become stronger. We have to continue deepening our knowledge in issues such as health and safety, prevention and training.

We have to keep fighting for the unity of action. We have to interact so we can ensure consensus within diversity. The consensus must be of action, of doing concrete things in favor of workers’ rights in Latin America and in the rest of the world, without forgetting solidarity and cooperation. In that direction, Cuba will always be in defense of workers, cooperating and working. We will do everything we ensure it. We will put all the resources, effort and commitment in the defense of human dignity, social justice, solidarity and world proletarian internationalism