Speech to TUC Congress by Salvador Valdes Mesa General Secretary of CTC

Campaign News | Monday, 21 September 2009

Speech to Congress by Salvador Valdes Mesa

General Secretary of CTC (Cuba Workers' Group of Affiliated Trade Unions) address to TUC Congress, Liverpool, Tuesday 15 September 2009.

"Brendan Barber, Secretary General of the TUC and Sheila Bearcroft, President of this Congress, dear friends, dear brothers and sisters, dear delegates. Since long ago I have been following the continued actions of solidarity carried out by the British trade union and labour Movements along with the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, the agreements endorsed in the many TUC and trade union events, as well as the resounding resolutions unanimously adopted in relation to Cuba in the past year during the 140th Annual Congress, which has been an undisputed influence in other parts of the world. Therefore, it became my duty to be here today in order to express personally the gratitude of the Cuban workers, their trade unions and the Cuban people as a whole for your fraternal solidarity and sincere friendship.

We Cubans will never forget that in times of difficulties caused by the blockade imposed upon Cuba by the government of the United States and the disappearance of the socialist community, Cuba suffered a deep economic crisis which deprived us of fuel, food, medicines and many other necessary resources. Still, we have always felt the friendly hand and the solidarity of the British trade unions which encouraged us and supported us morally and materially when in the early stages of this century ill-intentioned campaigns were unleashed against Cuba with the immeasurable aim of destroying our revolution and reverting our economic and political system, a system defended by the overwhelming majority of our people, who support and defend the revolution. When innumerable attacks were launched from Europe against my country, the British trade unions and the TUC improved their solidarity towards our workers, launching a strong message of friendship, brotherhood, understanding and support, which had an impact throughout Europe, and which repercussion became most evident during the celebration of the International Meeting of Trade Unions with Cuba and the European Conference on Solidarity with Cuba held in the year 2006. These actions gave us more strength for us to continue ahead in our struggle against the most brutal and criminal blockade suffered ever by any nation, a blockade which is still in place. The US tries to make it even worse. The present some kind of flexibility by way of applying cosmetic actions but, at the same time, they are trying to impose conditions. Our people demand the complete elimination of the blockade and we do not accept any kinds of conditions whatsoever.

Also in our constant battle for the freedom of the five Cuban heroes, anti-terrorist combatants, serving their 11th year of unjust imprisonment in the United States' penitentiaries, we have relied on the hard work and support provided by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, the TUC and the British unions, which has been, without doubt, of extraordinary importance to us. For us it has been of profound significance to have received several presidents and several secretary generals from different British trade unions who have joined us on different occasions, such as the case of the visit paid to Cuba by the General Secretary of the TUC, our friend, Brendan Barber, leading the largest delegation that attended our May Day celebration in Havana this year together with half-a-million Cuban workers in Revolutionary Square. That action was, no doubt, clear evidence of the high level of our relations, friendship and solidarity.

Therefore, it is my utmost desire to say to you this day, on behalf of all the Cuban workers, thanks TUC and thanks British trade unions from the depth of my heart. I want to convey through you, delegates, to the Congress a strong hug to all the trade unionists in the United Kingdom for all that they have done and continued to do on a daily basis for the benefit of the Cuban people who will never forget your solidarity and who will always be ready to extend our friendly hand.

This Congress is taking place in times of difficulties for the labour Movement and workers around the world. The profound global crisis, which began in the United States, radiates its consequences across the world, exerting its negative impact mostly upon workers and their families.

We are witnesses of the growth of unemployment, the worsening of labour standards, the worsening of the quality of life of our people, the growth of poverty and social inequality in today's world. The World Federation of Trade Unions forecasts a possible increase of 51 million unemployed between the years 2009 and 2010. Europe and the develop world exhibits the highest rate. Meanwhile, it is astonishingly gross to see the way in which multi-billion economic packages are being assigned in order to save banks and major corporations who are, indeed, the creators of the crisis and how, once again, confidence is being placed in those financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, which caused such damage and harm to the less developed countries imposing on them conditions that trimmed their sovereignty and controlled their natural resources, thereby causing a drastic reduction in their social programmes and, thus, eliminating jobs.

Cuba, my dear friends, in the midst of the fierce blockade, of which we are victims, also suffers severely the impact of this crisis. As a consequence, we have been subjected to an increase of almost 53% in the price of foodstuffs and other goods, a reduction in the price of our exports and the diminishing of our income and revenues coming from the tourist industry. Added to all this has been the disastrous consequences of the passing through in our country last year of three devastating hurricanes that left damages valued at not less than $10 billion, which compelled us to make gigantic efforts in order to palliate the situation left by them.

However, the answer given in our country to all of these shortcomings is different. While unemployment grows in the world, we have adopted a number of measures in the employment sector geared towards protecting our workers while in the world workers are declared redundant and thousands of teachers lose their jobs. In Cuba we protect and we perfect our educational programmes and we increase the level of salaries of our workers in that sector. Today, the workers of the world are losing or seeing their pension funds reduced while in Cuba we would rather increase these items and we strengthen and improve our social security and welfare schemes, while in the United States medical care is being denied to almost 50 million citizens. In Cuba we have endorsed a budget for the extension of medical services, institutions, hospitals and others in order to increase the level of our medical and healthcare services. They are absolutely free of charge and our infant mortality rate today has been reduced to 4.7 per each one thousand born alive. This has been the lowest figure in our history.

It is well-known that our country provides international co-operation by way of thousands of Cuban workers abroad who, without charge, give attention to other nations and people in need. Also Cuba graduates thousands of young medical students coming from poor nations, sharing with them our no. 1 resource, which is our human resources created by the revolution.

Dear delegates and friends, we strongly believe that in these times of difficulties for the working class, it becomes of paramount importance for trade union and labour movements to seek, in a responsible way and far from petty sectarian outlooks, ways and methods that will allow us to channel and bring closer our points of view and our actions for the purpose of defending the millions of workers and their families who we represent. We understand that unilateral actions carried out by national and international trade union organizations, disregarding or ignoring their trade unions or even attacking their criteria, far from helping to solve the serious problems of the world, only serve the purpose of making them more acute due to the depression and the international dispute.

Thank you, once again, TUC; thank you, once again, trade unions of the UK, to your leaders and to your workers for this opportunity that has been given to me and, above all, for the friendship and solidarity that you have always given us. To all my dear friends, brothers and sisters, long live friendship among our workers. Long live solidarity. Thank you."

As well as addressing Congress, the CTC delegation which included Raymundo Navarro, Head of International at the CTC and translator Eddy Brown, also held numerous bilateral meetings with British unions. On Monday 14 September, Salvador Mesa and Raymundo Navarro also spoke alongside General Secretaries, Brendan Barber, Tony Woodley, Bob Crow, Dave Prentis and Christine Blower, to more than 300 TUC delegates at the CSC fringe meeting. A full report and photos will be included in the next CubaSi magazine and on the website soon.

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