IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights (SRESCER) are concerned about precarious working conditions and trade-union rights in Cuba. Both institutions call on the State to fully protect the right to work with dignity and other labor and trade-union rights.
In recent months, the Commission and its SRESCER have been closely monitoring the alarming socioeconomic situation in Cuba, in the context of an acute, widespread economic crisis in the country. Conditions have triggered very high inflation and the resulting loss of worker purchasing power, along with recurring power outages, shortages of food and basic medication, and a collapse of the public healthcare system. A widespread rise in poverty and inequality has followed, along with a significant increase in labor precariousness and informality.
The lack of official data on certain aspects of the economy, the labor market, and the situation of labor rights in the country prevents access to comprehensive information and makes it difficult to see the worsening lack of labor protection faced by workers in Cuba.
In particular, during a thematic hearing on "The situation of labor and trade-union rights in Cuba" held during the IACHR's 184th Period of Sessions, the Commission received from participating organizations information about the widespread rise in labor informality and precariousness, which is said to be specifically affecting women in differentiated ways. There have also been reports of persistent differences and inequalities in State laws concerning self-employed individuals, which allegedly makes it difficult (or even impossible) for this group to fully enjoy its labor rights.
There have been many testimonies of Cuban workers denouncing long workdays without the required overtime payments, the payment of low wages that fail to support basic living standards, and precarious working conditions including a lack of means and tools or the prevalence of unhygienic conditions in places of work.
Further, according to information provided by civil society, the right to the full exercise of trade-union freedom and the right to freedom of association do not exist in Cuba, given the politization and the monopoly held by a single trade union controlled by the State (the Workers' Central Union of Cuba) and the ban on independent trade unions and on the free election of workers' representatives (who are currently directly appointed by the Communist Party). This reportedly causes major challenges for the protection of workers' rights. Among self-employed workers, trade unions are in fact non-existent, which is further evidence of the difficulties these individuals face to defend their rights.
The IACHR and its SRESCER stress that human labor and trade-union rights are inseparable from and inherent to human dignity. Developing them is crucial to strengthen economic and social systems with a human rights approach, and they are essential to protect and enjoy other rights and to enable individuals' autonomous development. It is also a tool to ensure people can live with dignity. The IACHR and its SRESCER therefore urge the Cuban State to effectively protect the right to work with dignity, in fair conditions and without discrimination, as well as the free exercise of trade-union rights and the right to freedom of association, in line with the applicable inter-American standards.
The SRESCER is an autonomous office of the IACHR and was especially created to brace the Commission's compliance with its mandate to promote and protect economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights in the Americas.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.