Brian Dijkema, representative of the Christian Labour Association of Canada, blasts the Canadian Labour Congress for supporting Cuba’s communist regime. Supposedly a defender of workers right, the Congress ignores that Canadian companies operating in Cuba pay $500 a month per worker to the state of Cuba while Cuban workers receive less than $25.
Those who gloss over the Cuban government’s violation of human rights often portray Cuba as a socialist utopia, one in which diminished freedom is merely the small price paid for cradle-to-grave care by the state. But if this is the case, why do Cubans continue to rely on support from the UN’s food program? Why do many Canadian tourists who vacation regularly in Cuba take extra toothpaste along to hand out? They know that even such basic essential items are scarce.
Here’s another issue: Why does the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) — a body that professes to be a defender of workers’ rights and the “voice of labour” in this country — remain one of the last union organizations to support Cuba’s one-union, one-party system? In doing so, the CLC has broken with the position on Cuba held by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the world’s largest trade union federation, to which it is a member.
In a resolution tabled at its recent 24th Constitutional Convention, the CLC says that “the loss of the Cuban socialist project would constitute an historic setback for working people everywhere.” In other words, the CLC supports a regime that claims “freedom of association … does not translate into the false concept of ‘trade union pluralism.’ ”
Together with its affiliated unions, the CLC will be hosting an event this weekend in Toronto in support of the Cuban government. The rights of Cuban workers sitting in jail for starting an independent union is not on the agenda. When it comes to a choice between human dignity or socialist ideology, the CLC sides with ideology, believing workers are best served by one central authority — whether in Cuba or in Canada.
Cuba’s imprisoned CUTC members disagree. Thousands of ordinary Cubans, struggling to make ends meet, living in fear of losing their jobs — or worse — not daring to criticize the government, also disagree. The loss of socialism would not be a loss for Cuban workers. It would be a great gain.
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