Trade Union Round-up - Summer 2012

Campaign News | Friday, 13 July 2012

CSC has been travelling countrywide - and even across the Atlantic - organising stands, meetings and socials at a variety of trade union conferences. We have organised fringe meetings at the CWU, TUC Black Workers, PCS, UCATT, UCU, GMB, Unison and Unite conferences to explore various contemporary and historical issues in Cuba. We have held socials at PCS and Unite Policy conferences and have had a presence at ASLEF and BECTU. We have welcomed a fine selection of British speakers and - for the first time ever - hosted the four wives of the Miami Five. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Thompsons Solicitors for all the support they offer CSC throughout conference season.


Over 70 delegates at the CWU’s National Conference in Bournemouth resisted the temptation of a picnic on the beach to hear from Mirta Rodriguez and María Eugenia Guerrero, mother and daughter of Miami Five prisoner Antonio Guerrero, as they thanked the union for their continued support.

John Baldwin, Head of International at the CWU, drew attention to the 50th anniversary of the economic blockade of Cuba which - despite being rejected for 20 consecutive years by the United Nations - “is still maintained and denies the most vulnerable people in Cuban society access to basic medical equipment”.


A packed fringe meeting at TUC Black Workers conference heard CSC Director, Rob Miller, give a background on the case of the Miami Five before welcoming Mirta and Maria, whose son and brother Antonio Guerrero remains imprisoned within the United States for defending the Cuban people against terrorist attacks.

Hector Wesley, PCS NEC and CSC Executive, urged delegates to join CSC and get their branches affiliated to the Campaign. Hector remarked that “despite the impact of the blockade, Cuba has built a society based on social justice, equality and internationalism.”


Cuban Ambassador - Esther Armenteros - told a fringe meeting at PCS conference about Cuba’s social achievements and struggle to defend socialism in the face of worldwide economic crisis. According to Esther, Cuba’s achievements are even more incredible considering the ongoing “economic warfare” which the United States has waged against the island. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the blockade and has cost the economy an estimated $750bn. Esther believes that the motivation for the blockade is political and that “the United States has never forgiven Cuba for building socialism in their own backyard.”

Later in the week PCS delegates enjoyed the delights of a Cuban-themed social as they sipped Cuba Libre cocktails and danced to the beats of Cuban musical maestros Omar Puente y Las Raices Cubanas.


UCATT General Secretary Steve Murphy spoke about his recent visit to Cuba and vowed to work with CSC to increase the number of UCATT branches and regions affiliated to the campaign. Conference committed to sending a youth delegate on CSC’s annual May Day Brigade to Cuba and Mark Lynch - who attended this year’s brigade - told our fringe meeting about Cuba’s incredible achievements in the face of shortages caused by the ongoing blockade. Steve Cottingham from OH Parsons Solicitors gave a brief update on the campaign to free the Miami Five including news that Rene Gonzalez had been granted a temporary reprieve to visit his critically ill brother in Cuba.


UCU Honorary Treasurer Alan Carr and Vice-President Simon Renton reflected on a recent Higher Education delegation to Cuba at UCU Conference in Manchester. Alan praised university education in Cuba which is “free, not just in terms of tuition, but also books, equipment and subsistence”. Both Alan and Simon reminisced about their visit to the Latin America Medical School which offers free medical training to students from various developing countries, but also students from the United States who can’t afford exorbitant tuition fees at home. Alan marvelled at the success of the medical school which was “built at the height of the Special Period and rolled out across the continent”.


Carlos Camps, Political Counsellor at the Cuban Embassy, made his speaking debut at a packed fringe meeting at GMB National Conference in Brighton. Over fifty delegates heard about Cuba’s social achievements and learnt about the island’s struggle to defend socialism in the face of worldwide economic crisis and an aggressive blockade led by the United States.

Former Labour MP Colin Burgon placed Cuba’s struggle for national sovereignty within the ongoing narrative of American intervention in Latin America. Colin called on the GMB to intensify its international work and urged the British labour movement to draw inspiration and encouragement from Latin America and use their example to demonstrate the failure of neo-liberalism.


For the first time outside Cuba, CSC brought together the four wives of the Miami Five prisoners in a whistle-stop speaking tour of Britain. They were treated to two standing ovations from nearly 3,000 delegates at Unison National Delegate Conference in Bournemouth and spoke to over 250 more at a packed fringe meeting.

Elizabeth Palmiero, wife of Miami Five prisoner Ramon Labanino, spoke on behalf of the wives and thanked Unison for their unstinting support. “It is a political case and we will only win their freedom if we have an international campaign of millions fighting on their behalf,” said Elizabeth. “Just as it was an international solidarity movement that won freedom for Nelson Mandela.”

Unison President, Eleanor Smith, praised the women for their bravery and announced that the union would be sending a message from its conference to Foreign Secretary William Hague, urging the government to make a humanitarian appeal on behalf of the men and their families to the US State Department. Meanwhile, dozens of delegates visited the CSC stall to write letters of solidarity to the Miami Five.


The wives were again greeted by a standing ovation at Unite Policy Conference in Brighton as Britain’s largest union reasserted their support for the Miami Five’s ongoing struggle for justice.

Elizabeth again spoke on behalf of the wives. “The only thing our husbands are guilty of is protecting the Cuban people against terrorist attacks,” she declared. “For the American authorities, it is not enough to keep our husbands in prison; they also use us - by denying us visitation rights - to further attack our husbands.”

Conference adopted a motion to intensify support for the Miami Five, oppose the U.S blockade of Cuba and further increase the number of branches affiliated to CSC. As General Secretary Len McCluskey stated, “Unite will continue to give all the support needed until justice prevails”.

At the CSC fringe meeting - attended by nearly 100 delegates - newly elected CSC Chair and current Unite Assistant General Secretary Diana Holland condemned the ongoing blockade.

“The blockade is still very much alive and kicking,” said Diana. “Only last month the ING bank was fined millions of dollars for processing Cuban financial transactions because the US farcically keeps Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism”.

The following evening, after a long day of intense discussion, over 800 delegates and visitors enjoyed the joint Unite/Cuba Solidarity Campaign social in support of the Miami Five.


CSC is proud of its long history of working with the British trade union movement and the solidarity and support this represents to the Cuban people is invaluable. It is absolutely imperative to recognise and champion the international and social achievements of Cuba and we encourage all unaffiliated branches and regions to join CSC and continue the fight against the illegal blockade and for justice for the Miami Five.

CSC has a number of model motions on Cuba, CSC and in support of the Miami Five which can be used at conference. If you would like more information - or would like to get your branch affiliated - please contact Dan Smith on 020 8800 0155 or email

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