Cuban Trade Union Leader Visits Adelaide  

Monday 31st July, 2006 23:39 AEST

John Heywood reports.....


Cuban parliamentarian and trade union official Gilda Chacon-Bravo (pron. Hilda) was in Adelaide last week as part of the national tour organised by the Western Australian Branch of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.  During the three days she was here Gilda met with officials from the CFMEU, spoke at a meeting of SA Unions as well as a public meeting arranged by the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society, and attended a parliamentary luncheon in her honour.  Although her schedule was a busy one Gilda still found time to speak with members of the State Committee of the CPA about the current situation in her country.

Gilda was asked what she knew about the $100 million dollars which has recently been allocated by the US Senate to ‘promote democracy’ in Cuba.   Gilda described this as yet another attempt to destabilise the Cuban government.  She said that the American’s have yet to accept that they have ‘socialism in front of their nose’ and that the Cuban people are well aware of the intentions of the US government and will do everything in their power to defend the revolution. The Cuban people have succeeded at this since the beginning of the blockade in 1962.  

The US is already speaking of this ‘transition to democracy’ that they expect to take place upon the death of Fidel.  ‘This is a crazy thing you know because Fidel is just one man’, the Cuban revolution is supported by all the Cuban people and they will defend it with their lives’, Gilda said.  

In her role as one of the many female parliamentarian’s in Cuba, Gilda says she has a lot of direct contact with the people.  ‘When a new draft policy is put to parliament, we get out into the streets and talk to the people about what they think.   We are elected to parliament by the people and the people can reverse our election if we are not doing the job we said we would.’   Gilda explained that parliamentarians are elected on a voluntary basis and that they received no payment for their work.   

Although it is not compulsory to be in the union, ninety-eight percent of all Cuban workers are unionised and the unions, although independent, work very closely with government.  The Cuban government doesn’t make any changes to labour law without full consultation and support of the unions.   This is a far cry from what we experience here in Australia.  

When asked what the workers do in the situation where a manager or boss is not treating the workers as they should, Gilda told us: ‘In Cuban workplaces, if the manager is not doing a good job or treating the workers badly they can ask for a new manager and the manager will be thrown out’.  This sounds more like it!  

Those in attendance commented that democracy is obviously alive and well in Cuba.  Perhaps the Americans would do well to spend the money on a pro-democracy campaign in their own country!

While in Adelaide Gilda gave a number of interviews to community radio.  The audio from her interview on Radio Adelaide’s ‘Your Rights at Night’ program is available here.