The active participation of workers is decisive in the construction of a country in which the improvement of economic indicators, rising salaries backed by the generation of wealth, efficiency in investments, and the growth of production and services, are all key demands.
In the alliance of the entire society to achieve these goals, the Cuban Workers’ Federation (CTC), founded in 1939 by Lázaro Peña, plays an indispensable role. Since its creation, the workers’ organization has led some of the most important processes in the nation’s development.
CTC Secretary General, Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, agreed to talk with Granma regarding the challenges facing unions in the current battle for economic progress.
The country achieved slight economic growth in the first half of the year, what role do workers play in maintaining this?
The role of unions and workers is decisive in the goal of ensuring the growth of our economy - particularly of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - and of finding ways and means to increase efficiency and material production. The latter should have an increasing bearing on the structure of the GDP.
In order to achieve this objective, it is essential to perfect planning, in the short, medium, and long term, and in particular, to identify the potential efficiency reserves that are present in the different production processes.
In my opinion, workers can have a greater impact on the optimal use of raw materials and supplies, existing inventories, and the reduction of consumption rates, paying particular attention, due to their high cost, to energy sources.
Second, we must make better use of the technical availability coefficients of agricultural and engineering machinery available to us today; increase the rotation of arable land and the optimization of potential yields. No less important is the completion of investment projects, in which each year we plan amounts that are not met for a number of reasons, many of which are associated with subjective factors.
Another aspect is related to the poor implementation of norms and organization of work, to favor greater productivity of the labor force, and with it the gradual improvement of income. At the same time, a failure to demand compliance with labor and technological discipline, and the application of science continues.
In addition, unions must address the shortcomings associated with the contracting, transportation, marketing chain. Workers can produce as long as they have the supplies, and raw materials arrive on time, designing pay systems together with administration departments that unleash productive forces, in a context of greater autonomy and flexibility in the socialist state enterprise, and the growth and diversification of non-state forms of management.
We must purposely push for the fulfillment of exportable production lines and those that can substitute imports, as well as making incursions and diversifying in others – which once played an important role in export plans – like manufacturing, in the footwear and textiles field.
In a general sense, the most substantial contribution that workers can make is to ensure in their collective that today, not only can we produce more, if provided with the resources, but that we make more efficient use of what we have.
Now that the guiding documents on the transformation of our economic model have been approved and disseminated, how will the CTC assume the implementation process?
Since the 20th CTC Congress, held in February 2014, the Army General, in his closing speech, summoned us to concentrate the trade union movement on substantive aspects, and one of them was to ensure the implementation of the (Economic and Social Policy) Guidelines.
From that moment on, it has been a priority to examine our progress and difficulties in our governing bodies. We have designed a communication plan aimed at the preparation of our cadre; to favor debates with the participation of experts; to promote pieces of journalism publicizing the views of those who practically implement or are impacted (by the Guidelines). We also promote knowledge of the content, reinforcing their democratic and participative essence.
When the documents were discussed by the trade union movement and its governing bodies, workers openly participated in making the proposals that helped to improve them and build consensus, and were later reflected in the finished documents.
It is precisely in these documents, and in the National Assembly, that popular control is increasingly being talked about. How much can workers and unions do to make this a reality in every workplace?
I would dare to say that the union movement has a role unlike any other organization, in this spectrum of our society, to favor and ensure effective popular control.
In this sense, there are spaces for collective discussion that we should take better advantage of, such as the workers’ assembly, which statutorily provide us with legal force and has legal recognition, in order that management is obliged to render accounts of their administration.
These assemblies need to become a moment for broad democratic debate, for contributions from workers.
To do this, we need to uproot the formality in the practical observance of the rights we have gained.
I can’t say that this isn’t done today; the question is whether what we do has the effectiveness that we require.
Evidently, the answer is no. Because still the majority of the audits that are carried out across the country are external control measures, to detect cases of corruption and the diversion of resources, to which must be added the audits that are classified as bad or deficient.
There are specific problems in the economy, such as the case of wages paid without the corresponding productive support, which has a direct impact on workers. What measures is the CTC taking to attempt to correct these deficiencies?
Regarding salaries, there is a very controversial debate underway across society, with majority recognition that the incomes received are insufficient to satisfy the needs of workers, with which the union movement agrees. This causes apathy at work, a lack of interest and significant labor migration, with not only quantitative, but also qualitative impacts. It is a known issue and the object of evaluation by decision-making bodies.
Together with this are the cases of non-payment of workers and administrative institutions that violate pay periods. That is, there is a series of problems linked to the issue of salaries, but we have always been advocates for pay based on production.
When the opposite occurs, there is an inflationary process in the economy. It is therefore a challenge for unions to improve the training of those responsible for the conception, design, and implementation of payment forms and systems.
In recent years, there has been a substantial reduction in the numbers of entities reporting losses. In 2009, there were 802 enterprises that made payments without productive support. We have just closed the first half of the year with 67 enterprises. There shouldn’t be a single one, but the union, together with workers, has raised awareness regarding the need for these issues to be openly discussed.
Among the measures taken are the visits we conduct to these enterprises, alongside experts from the Association of Economists of Cuba, the Union of Jurists of Cuba, and union leaders from the Labor, Finances and Prices, and Economics and Planning directorates of the provincial governments.
We have favored discussion and identification of the variables that contribute to these deformations in the fulfillment of plans. These same issues are taken openly to the workers’ discussion assembly, promoting the identification of the causes that generate these problems.
Some of them are not always directly associated with the will of the workers, and have to do with shortcomings in the contracting, production, and marketing chain; the impact of the dual monetary and exchange rate; and other structural problems present in our economy.
For the CTC and its unions, the task of advancing the country’s economy is a priority in the practical and concrete work of the organization. We see it as a responsibility, in the pursuit of the satisfaction of the needs of our people.