B. Jordan, Secretary General
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU)
W. Thys, Secretary General
World Confederation of Labor (WCL)
9 december 1998
Dear Madam, Sir,
On 3 december, Pax Christi Netherlands convened a round table meeting in the European Parliament (Brussels) on European investments and labor rights in Cuba. Your representatives were present there as well as representatives of employers organizations, MEPs, academics, political experts, etc. Unfortunately, scarcely present were representatives of individual companies themselves, precisely the entities that should be sensibilized on the need to develop a consistent human rights policy when investing in countries such as Cuba.
During the meeting general consensus was apparent about the systematic nature of violations of labor rights by the cuban government, specifically, the fundamental human rights conventions of the ILO. Notably, this concerned the conventions 87 (freedom of association and right to organize); C 98 (right to organize and bargain collectively); and C.111, (the right to non-discrimination). Apart from that, what is considered a form of far going exploitation is the still common practice that foreign companies (joint ventures) are forced to pay the salaries of their Cuban workers in dollars to a state agency. The state at its turn pays the workers in (worthless) pesos. In practice this implies that more than 90% of the salaries is confiscated by the Cuban authorities (a violation of ILO convention 95).
As you might know, Pax Christi Netherlands is since years trying to promote European committment to the independent civic movement in Cuba. No independent civilian organization is given legal status by the government, including trade unions. However, in spite of the risks that this implies, ever more efforts are made by the cuban population to create their own non governmental organizations. The growing independent trade union movement is one of the examples of this process.
Knowing that both your organizations are planning to visit Cuba soon, we as Pax Christi Netherlands would strongly recommend that in Cuba you also meet the independent trade unions, like the six unions that are in the process of forming the 'Confederación de Trabajadores Libres'. This recommendation can also be seen in the spirit of the above mentioned meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels.
Concerning best business practices: as long as in Cuba trade unions are not in the position to claim their workers rights vis à vis foreign investors, we recommend that you as international trade union bodies take this role for your cuban collegues.
We are looking forward to meeting you after your return to Europe and possibly develop common future strategies.
Coordinator Latin America dpt.
Latin America dpt.