HOLGUÍN, Cuba.- Vicente fixes an electrical fault from above. He works “hot” (energized line). The electrical service in a prioritized area depends on it. He is against the clock and at the same time must comply with security measures: an oversight would cost him his life.
“It is a stressful and dangerous job. We are always under pressure,” says Vicente, who identified himself that way to speak to CubaNet.
Rest is considered a luxury. “I leave my house at six in the morning and almost always return at night. I have accumulated fatigue and that hurts me”.
Your occupation prevents you from spending time with your family and home commitments. He wants to leave his job before the end of the year, “my wife and children have asked me to”. The father-in-law does the shopping. “I can’t spend long hours queuing at the market. My work doesn’t allow it”, confesses Vicente.
The importance of his work and the constant risks to which he is exposed are not financially rewarded. “The basic salary and the additional payments for dangerous work, night shifts and overtime are not enough for household expenses. Everything is very expensive and prices continue to rise,” says Vicente.
This is one of the causes of the progressive shortage of electrical linemen. “It is a hard and poorly paid job. Many leave and few enter. There are vacant lineman positions and those of us who are here assume full responsibility.”
Added to this is the increase in breakage due to aging of technologies and accessories. The most frequent deteriorations are seen in electrical distribution transformers. “Most transformers have many years of use. Due to its importance, this is one of the breaks that have priority to be resolved”, says Vicente.
Electrical linemen and installers of electrical and telephone poles are among the most difficult and risky professions. They deal with countless difficulties caused by the shortage of materials and spare parts. They are exposed to a danger with risk to life. However, his salary does not cover basic needs. This has caused a labor shortage that further complicates the performance of those who still work in this important task.
The inconveniences have not been reflected by the official Cuban press, which only limited itself to post ten years ago a complaint about the delay in payment, the terrible working conditions and the poor nutrition of a brigade of linemen belonging to the Base Business Unit (UEB) of the Electric Company in Buey Arriba, in Granma province.
“The union does not help us and honestly we have nowhere to turn. It is good that the independent press publishes our problems”, thanks Vicente.
Manuel works in a brigade that installs and replaces electrical poles. “We have no respite. Most of the poles are deteriorated and many have already completed 25 years of their useful life”, he says.
Almost two years without producing electrical poles in the country influenced the accumulation of problems. “We have to change many posts, but the workforce is not complete. Too much work and little money in return”, summarizes Manuel the experience with his colleagues.
Pablo is another electrical lineman who decided to tell CubaNet about his experience under a pseudonym. “Every day we do complex work that is life-threatening,” he confesses.
“We have to climb a pole, work on the line and do it under intense sun or in the rain, and even at dawn,” says Pablo, who assures that his salary does not cover the sacrifice. “They pay us 3,500 pesos a month plus one percent for risks and night time. On very few occasions we earn almost 7,000 pesos a month, which is very little if we measure it with our sacrifice, ”says Pablo, who confesses that he cannot meet the urgent needs of his family either.
“My daughter’s shoes for school cost me 5,000 pesos, her backpack 2,500. My house has a tiled roof and, when it rains, in some parts there are leaks due to the deterioration of the roof. There are also leaks in the pipes. I have not been able to fix them because the construction materials are very expensive. A sack of cement costs 1,600 pesos. My salary and that of my wife is barely enough to eat”, Pablo details and mentions that a pound of pork is 230 pesos, a pound of rice is 60, a banana is 10 pesos a unit and a liter of milk is 55.
“The workload makes us feel very exhausted and that is dangerous for this job where a lot of concentration is needed because your life depends on it.”
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