Could the Cuban government be abolishing benefits to raise wages to international standards?

At present the whole concept of Cuban workers receiving 15 USD per calendar month and for 40 hour work weeks was the concept of receiving several “benefits”. These look set to disappear as Cuba grapples with a critical economy. But can the government afford to pay its workers proper wages to cover the following lost benefits?


Ending Workers Canteens


Although implausible to conceive for western minds, many workers held down government jobs simply because they received their main daily meal at the company’s canteen. It is currently in progress the cancelation of this perk by the government and, in exchange for this historic and, for some crucial, daily meal Raul Castro proposes raising salaries by 2 Cuban pesos per day to cover the lost meal. For many this would mean losing their main benefit for working in exchange for 2 Cuban pesos per day or approximately 25 cents (USD) with which a meal cannot either be made or purchased in Cuba.


Ending Monthly Food Rations


An important motive and frequently used explanation for incredibly low salaries has been the “Libreta de Abastecimiento” or Food rations provided to all Cuban´s via the famous booklet. This includes vital supplies such as eggs, flour, sugar, vegetables, meat, milk and other items. Cuban´s have complained for ions that the items given do not cover a whole month, many saying that the items provided have slowly dwindled down to cover just 18 days from the promised monthly supplies. Talk is now circulating that this may end. One cannot imagine what Cuban´s would do to cover the loss of these vital supplies unless of course the government is planning a massive rise in monthly salaries allowing them to buy the foods now given to them, purportedly due to the fact that the socialist system pays so little by way of salaries purely because these rations are provided in the first place.


Intranet to replace Internet access


Yes, believe it or not, many Cuban´s have a job so that they can use the internet from work to carry out other tiny businesses. These include (at a cost) communication from family abroad to those in Cuba who do not have the internet. Others take in internet bookings for Casa Particulares (private houses) or coordinate visitors with private taxis. Some coordinate cash remittances, packages and gifts brought in by the infamous “Mules” who bring in packages and cash as a profession from the US, Canada and Mexico. Mules have been known to enter and leave Cuba up to 10 times a month while transporting things from families livening abroad. Whatever they do to earn some extra money it’s usually related to using the internet provided at their place of work to drum up a little extra income. With internet costing up to 20 USD an hour at Internet Cafes created for tourists, the simple benefit of having the internet at work can subsidize heavily a Cuban´s 15 USD per month salary. Plans are apparently underway though to eliminate world access to accounts such as yahoo, gmail etc. and provide just a localized intranet which would only allow Cuban workers at lower levels to communicate with their coworkers nationally, restricting “Full access” to a chosen few in very high management positions. The loss of this perk could mean losing the extra benefit derived from the internet use and thus negate the motive to work in the first place.


Workers Transportation


The daily buses and cars previously dispatched to collect workers and bring them to their places of employment have slowly become less and less prevalent meaning Cuban´s need to find other ways of getting to work. Most simply can´t and must leave. More recently, farmers who were told that their produce would be purchased by the government and transported to major cities for sale in markets saw their produce rot because the government did not send the trucks to collect it due to fuel shortages. This transpiring directly after Raul Castro apparently “freed up” farmers restrictions and handed over land to apparently create private enterprise in the sector.


Work Clothing allowance


Employees who earn 15 USD per month are unable to buy the clothing they require to work in government offices, factories and businesses. If they are to remain presentable at their place of work the Cuban Government has historically given out what is known as the “Modulo de Ropas” (clothing allowance) usually once a year. Many workers would sell these clothes to make ends meet and simply take care of last years clothing allowance. Needless to say, this is also being phased out meaning that many workers simply cannot afford to dress correctly for their jobs.


To summarize, if the government is to remove the above perks, which for many were the only reason they held down a job in the first place, what will become of the Cuban workforce? More importantly, what will become of the people who have already abandoned working in Cuba? With unemployment at figures as high as 35% of the active population, many able bodied Cuban´s have found it simply impossible to even get to work, never mind stay at work for the monthly salaries of 15 USD and have decided that staying at home is actually cheaper than working. The question remains of what will happen to those who do not work and will apparently no longer get the monthly food rations.

Difficult times are conspicuously on the horizon it would appear.

Comments are closed.

image image image