Alex Massie

Will the TUC Condemn Castro?

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Obviously this is one of John Rentoul's Questions to which the Answer is No. Nevertheless, given that the TUC is fond of congratulating* the Castro regime for its great achievements and humanity and all the rest of it one does wonder if the Congress will want to regret the Castros apparent, if unusual, embrace of economic reality. To wit, massive public sector cuts:

Cuba has announced radical plans to lay off huge numbers of state employees, to help revive the communist country's struggling economy.

The Cuban labour federation said more than a million workers would lose their jobs - half of them by March next year. Those laid off will be encouraged to become self-employed or join new private enterprises, on which some of the current restrictions will be eased.

Analysts say it is biggest private sector shift since the 1959 revolution.

Cuba's communist government currently controls almost all aspects of the country's economy and employs about 85% of the official workforce, which is put at 5.1 million people. As many as one-in-five of all workers could lose their jobs.

"Our state cannot and should not continue maintaining companies, productive entities, services and budgeted sectors with bloated payrolls and losses that hurt the economy," the labour federation said in a statement.

*Last year Brendan Barber, the TUC's General Secretary, travelled to the island gulag to deliver this toe-curling encomium:

I am proud to bring greetings from the British trade union movement and the 6.5 million workers we represent.

I am proud to be the first general secretary of the Trades Union Congress to come to Cuba - especially so on the occasion of your May Day celebrations, on the 50th anniversary of the revolution, and on the 70th anniversary of the CTC.

And I am proud of the links between British and Cuban trade unions, with CTUC general secretary Salvador Valdes Mesa and international secretary Raimundo Navarro attending our Congress in Liverpool later this year.

Let me begin by saluting the huge social achievements of the Cuban people over the past five decades, delivering levels of literacy, numeracy, public health and access to clean water that would shame many richer nations.

And let me also salute Cuba's profound sense of internationalism - not just providing aid, practical support and medical assistance to the world's poorest nations, but fighting global injustice too.

Cuba has contributed much to international solidarity; and Cuba needs our solidarity in return.

[...] International solidarity is at the heart of trade unionism, and at this time of global crisis, it is more important than ever that we work together, in the interests of working people.

We can learn a lot from each other - in a spirit of mutual understanding, support and solidarity.

Comrades, it has been a pleasure to address you.

On behalf of the British trade union movement, I wish the Cuban trade union movement and the Cuban people all the best for the future.

Viva Cuba, Viva Revolution!

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Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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