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Cuba’s Labor Justice Bodies Don’t Really Protect Workers

HAVANA, Cuba. – One of the entities created by the Castro regime in its apparent advocacy of the interests of Cuban workers are the Labor Justice Bodies (OJL, by its Spanish acronym). In every state enterprise, they are the body-to-go-to in order to solve labor conflicts. They are not only charged with litigation generated by employers’ decisions, but they are apt, also, to solve discipline problems and violations of the labor code.

However, in practice, these OJLs seldom fulfill their duty. Since the idea was imposed from above and not from an initiative of workers themselves, their original sin is that they were ill-born due to the incompetence of many of its members. In the majority of labor centers, the most abled workers refuse to get involved with a mechanism they see as a mere formality.

According to the Labor Code, considered as the law of laws in labor matters, workers’ claims presented before the OJLs go forward only if the procedures agreed to in the Collective Labor Agreement appear to have been violated. So, what is the Collective Labor Agreement? According to the official discourse, it’s a document created as a result of collective bargaining between workers and administrators, through which labor relations are regulated in each entity.

Well, reality indicates that the afore-mentioned formality makes the contents of these Collective Labor Agreements a dead letter. No such thing as “collective bargaining” exists. The agreement is often written by the administration, with the complicity of the company’s lawyer, and then it’s put away in a drawer and is taken out only if there is an inspection at the work center.

Therefore, if the step prior to appealing to the OJLs does not reflect the interests or concerns of workers due to the fact that they did not participate in the writing of said Agreements, then it’s clear to see that the OJLs serve no purpose at all to the workers.

A recent event that has received certain publicity and published in the newspaper Rebel Youth(on time for the sanction but not for the actual appeal) shows us the deficient conduct of one of these OJLs.

Last December 14th, a professor at the Faculty of Physical Culture of Granma University was the object of disciplinary action. Not happy with the sanction –a six-month transfer to a lower-paying teaching position- filed an appeal before the university’s OJL seven days later, on December 21st.

The Labor Code establishes that OJLs have 24 working days to reach a decision and notify the parties, the professor and the university administration in this case.

The OJL set a hearing for February 22, 2022, but it had to be called off on account that none of the members of the OJL showed up. A new hearing was scheduled for March 4thand again, it had to be called off for the same reason.

The only option left to the professor was to go to the Municipal Attorney General’s office in late March. There, he was told that he must wait between 30 and 60 days to receive an answer to his appeal from him.

In other words, when he receives that answer, perhaps in May, the six months of the sanction will have elapsed. If he is found innocent, he still will have met the requirements of the administrative sanction, and suffered a loss of income.

This is but an example of what workers can expect from the Labor Justice Bodies, or OJLs.

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