Cuba60 Young Workers Tour
Campaign News | Friday, 29 March 2019
The Cuba60 programme of events began with a fantastic Young Cuban Workers Tour of Britain, where two leading Cuban trade unionists, Yuniel Espinosa Reyes (Regional Secretary of the Energy and Mining Trade Union (SNTE), Ciego de Avila) and Yelena Gómez Gómez (official from the Provincial Tourism Trade Union (SNTHT), Matanzas), travelled over 1,500 miles and visited 9 cities for a full programme of activities hosted by British trade unions.
A range of national and regional trade unions hosted the young workers and organised a varied programme which included meetings with young trade unionists and trade union officials, workplace visits, local interest tours, speaking and participating in conferences, events and public meetings.
The tour included visits to Nottingham (GMB Midlands and East Coast Region), Leeds and Wakefield (Unite North East, Yorkshire and Humberside Region), Liverpool (Unite North West Region, PCS North West Women's Network), Manchester (UNISON North West Region), Bristol (Unite South West Region) Glasgow and Edinburgh (UNISON Scotland and Unite Scotland) and London (Unite London and Eastern Region, Unite National, GMB National and the TUC).
Many young members from the hosting trade unions had previously visited Cuba on CSC’s Young Trade Unionists’ May Day brigade and the tour provided opportunities to further strengthen the links and solidarity between British and Cuban workers.
The young workers exchanged their experiences of trade union organising during the tour. “The British trade unionists spoke about the challenges of recruiting young workers into unions and how part of the challenge is explaining what trade unions are for”, Yelena said.
“This is very different to our experience. In Cuba, joining a trade union is something ‘natural’. You are encouraged to join a trade union on your first day of work.”
Yuniel said “The trade unions have a role in every part of Cuban society, in the workplace, in society and in government”, and trade unionists here also spoke of the important roles the unions play outside of the workplace, in our communities and in wider society.
On the role young workers in Cuba, Yelena said: “Cuba has an ageing population, which means that young people now have the responsibility of preserving and ensuring the continued triumph of the Revolution to which so many people in the past have not only given their lives, but also dedicated their thoughts and dreams.
“The Revolution will only move forward and continue to triumph through the efforts of our young people who have been brought up with its values and aspirations. That is our most important commitment: we have the responsibility of keeping the Revolution alive.”
The tour was Yuniel’s first overseas trip and Yelena’s first visit to Britain. “We have really enjoyed our tour here, meeting trade unionists and visiting many different cities. But it’s also made us appreciate our country even more. Sure, we have problems, but they are economic problems. These economic problems are entirely due to the US blockade. It is a big shock and very sad to see the huge levels of homelessness and social problems on the streets in Britain,” Yelena said.
The Cuban guests were hugely grateful for the international solidarity with Cuba that they experienced throughout the tour. “It has been very surprising, the level of support and international solidarity for Cuba so far away from our island. It is great to see the support for Cuba, despite all the right wing media lies about our country”, Yuniel said.
“Going to Cuba is the best way to discover our reality” Yelena added.
Yelena said, “Thanks to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign for giving young workers in Cuba the opportunity to visit Britain and exchange views and experiences with the people here. And thank you to all the trade unions and individuals who have given us a really unforgettable experience – each in their own way and at different times and places.”
Cuba Solidarity Campaign would like say a massive thank you to all the trade unions that hosted the Cuban workers and made the tour possible.