Cuba, April 13 – Committed to continuing to build a prosperous and sustainable socialism, the country’s more than 480,000 healthcare sector workers will celebrate International Workers’ Day with various activities taking place both in and outside the island, according to Dr. Santiago Badía González, secretary general of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, speaking to Granma International.
Also a Family Medicine specialist, Badía González noted that first, staff at health facilities nationwide were called upon to participate in the May Day celebrations, after which countless activities commemorating the date were carried out, in order to make the event into a genuine celebration for workers.
“We will celebrate May Day with an even greater commitment to the health of our people,” noted the union representative.
“We are working to improve efficiency, the rational use of material and human resources, and ensure excellent service,” he stated.
He noted that workers will march through squares and streets, demanding an end to the criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on the island for over 50 years, and the return of the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo.
Over 300,000 workers and students will participate in the march, while the remaining 100,000 healthcare professionals will continue to provide medical care for the population in hospitals, he stated.
What are healthcare workers currently focusing their efforts on?
First and foremost the campaign to combat aedesmosquitoes, carriers of diseases such as Zika, chikungunya, dengue and yellow fever.
We are undertaking an intense campaign to reduce the risk of transmission and prevent a large-scale epidemic.
We are also working on disease prevention programs which are designed to further reduce the country’s mother and infant morality rates; increase life expectancy and minimize mortality rates of non-communicablechronic diseases.
We strive to work in an orderly, disciplined and effective manner, with greater efficiency in workplaces. We are vigilant and alert to any corrupt, criminal or unlawful action, and on this date we will also be recognizing a group of outstanding sector workers.
We are committed to the health of the Cuban people and the creation of a prosperous and sustainable socialism, which is our collective responsibility to build, a call we have also made to the over 50,000 sector workers, participating in international missions in 67 countries.
How do medical brigades working abroad celebrate May Day?
Just as in previous years, Cuban collaborators will participate in marches, taking place outside the country’s embassies. Cubans working in the remotest areas will carry out commemorative events, discussions, and political and cultural activities. May Day is celebrated with great enthusiasm.
In Cuba, collaborators spending their vacation at home on the island, or others who have completed their missions, participate in marches in their cities, accompanied by family members, friends and neighbors.
May 1 will be a joyful day, of remembrance and national celebration. Healthcare professionals will participate in activities, demonstrating their solidarity with workers around the world, fighting for their rights. Many delegates, who also participated in the Latin AmericanOfficialWorkers‘ Confederation (CLATE), which I attended from March 25 to April 2, expressed their desire to accompany Cuba in these activities.
The first days of this event, called Río La Plata, took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina and the remaining in Punta del Este, Uruguay, with representatives from 13 countries participating.
There, we presented Cuba’s experiences in public healthcare, there were many questions, and delegates were greatly impressed by the country’s medical coverage, which extends to all Cubans.
Representatives discussed challenges for the sector given the rise of neoliberal governments in the region and expressed their commitment to working together to develop strategies to demand pay rises, better working conditions, and resolve pending issues related to employment guarantees such as job security, outsourcing, and minimum wage demands, as well as employment protection policies.
In many Latin American countries for example, women do not enjoy the same on the job protection as men. Our delegation explained that in 1939, Cuba’s only Trade Union organization called the Cuban Workers’ Federation (CTC) was created. The organization was maintained after the triumph of the Revolution and today includes 17 affiliated trade union bodies at the grass roots, municipal, provincial and national levels. Thanks to the unity of workers we have a strong organization. Delegates to the meeting took our experiences as examples from which to initiate new struggles in Latin America and the world.
Tell us about relations between Cuban and U.S. trade unions…
We have received visits by U.S. trade unions interested in learning about how our unions are organized. We recently held a meeting with a delegation of U.S. nursing union reps. We showed them how the Cuban healthcare system works, they visited policlinics, hospitals and medical universities. They showed great admiration for the country’s healthcare system developed by the Cuban government. They inquired about union membership, not a problem in the country, as over 98% of workers are affiliated with the National Union of Healthcare Workers.
The U.S. delegates were also surprised to learn that managers are also union members and are obliged to present activity reports to staff in union meetings.
We explained how the Healthcare Union structure works with spaces for discussion and timely responses to proposals by workers, in addition to meetings at the municipal, provincial and national levels.
We are in contact with various U.S. trade unions, but the blockade continues to impede straightforward and efficient exchanges. Therefore, one of the demands we will be making on May Day will be a definitive end to the blockade, in addition to U.S. interventionist, colonizing policies, both in regards to Cuba and the rest of the world.(Granma)