May Day delegation is largest ever

Campaign News | Wednesday, 28 May 2008

More than 140 British trade unionists took part in Havana’s inspirational May Day celebrations this year. According to the CTC (Cuba’s equivalent to the TUC) the UK contingent was the largest international union delegation ever to attend Havana’s 1st May celebrations.

Among the British trade unionists who watched half million Cubans march through Revolution Square this year, were representatives from 8 British unions, including 44 young trade union members taking part in a Cuba Solidarity Campaign organised solidarity brigade.

For many, May Day was an awe inspiring experience. Following a speech by the General Secretary of the CTC, Salvador Mesa Valdes, 500,000 Cuban workers marched through Havana representing workers from all sectors and industries. Doctors, nurses, construction workers, cigar rollers, students and government workers, and even a contigent from the Cuban National Ballet marched side by side, singing, chanting shouting and celebrating international workers day and Cuba’s independence and revolution.

UK delegates included three General Secretaries, two Presidents, three assistant general secretaries, two regional secretaries and representatives from Thompsons and OH Parsons Solicitors. Many also attended the International Solidarity Conference on 2 May. The conference was addressed by Ricardo Alarcon, leader of Cuba’s National Assembly and Raymundo Navarro, Head of CTC International Relations. Together with families of the Miami 5 in attendence, they called for concrete actions from around the world to raise the profile of the five Cubans imprisoned in US jails, in this, their tenth year of incarceration following a unjust trial and harsh sentences.

Tony Woodley, joint General Secretary of Unite, the UK’s largest union also addressed the meeting which was attended by more than 900 delegates from around the world.

The young members and several of the delegations also visited health and education centres and workplaces to gain a better understanding of Cuba’s achievements in these areas. CSC also set up meetings with their sister trade unions to further strengthen to bonds between the Cuban and British trade union movements.

A meeting with the families of the Five was arranged to discuss what more could be done in UK to raise awareness of the case and to put pressure on the UK government to work with contacts in the US for their release and for visiting rights for two of the wives.

As a result it is hoped that the Autumn vigil to mark the 10th anniversary of the arrest and work in the lead up to this will have increased support and profile from within the British trade union movement.

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