On 24 - 25 February 2006, 260 delegates representing 63 trade unions from 21 countries attended a Conference at London’s City Hall to discuss trade union solidarity with Cuba and Latin America.
The Conference was organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) and supported by the TUC together with more than twenty British trade unions. It gave an opportunity for unions across Europe to share experiences of solidarity work, and stand united in condemning the 45 year-old US blockade of the island, and support for the defence of Cuba’s independence. Additionally, the presence of delegations from Cuba and Venezuela gave trade unionists a vital opportunity to hear first-hand of the threats and challenges facing their counterparts in Latin America.
Speaking at the Conference, Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC, stressed its importance in “bringing together unions from across Europe to talk about solidarity and discuss some of the new possibilities there are due to political changes in Latin America.” Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, built on this theme, emphasising the importance of Cuba to such changes, using the example of Venezuela where “tens of millions who have never seen a doctor in their lives, are now benefiting from the treatment of Cuban doctors”. Throughout the day, a number of contributions centred on how with Cuba offering such important support, defence of Cuba is central to protecting these progressive developments.
This is especially the case now the Bush Administration is intensifying its threat to Cuba and lobbying European governments to follow their hostile policies. British government officials recently had meetings with Caleb McCarry, the Bush Administrations, ominously named ‘Cuba Transition Co-ordinator’. His role includes building international support for ‘regime change’ in the country and installing a new government which would introduce a ‘free market’ to Cuba with policies to dismantle and privatise the countries world renowned public services. Pedro Ross, General Secretary of the Cuban Workers’ Trade Union Central (CTC) Federation, said at the conference that this was the most “dangerous and crazy” US policy yet towards Cuba, and urged that “trade union forces in Europe need to be present in the massive campaign of solidarity that will be convened this year.”
Following the conference, British trade unions are exploring opportunities to increase solidarity work across Europe; all the more important with the EU set to review its position on Cuba in June.
Brendan Barber, General Secretary, TUC (download speech)
Pedro Ross, General Secretary of the CTC (download speech)
Frederiq Imbrecht, National Executive, CGT, France (download speech)
Kleiv Fiskvik, Oslo President, Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), Norway (download speech)
Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON, UK (download speech)
Bob Crow, General Secretary, RMT, UK
Jacabo Torres, Leader Bolivarian Workers Front, UNT, Venezuela
Guest speaker, Ken Livingtone, Mayor of London (download speech)
Chair, Diana Holland, National Organiser, TGWU
John Monks, General Secretary ETUC (download speech)
Miguel Angel Martinez, MEP, President of the Group for Solidarity and Friendship with Cuba in the European Parliament (download speech)
Xavier Declercq, Director of Mobilisation, Oxfam Belgium
Florival Lanca, International Secretary, General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (CGTP-IN)
Rob Miller, Director, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, UK (download speech)
Chair: Keith Sonnet, Deputy General Secretary, UNISON, UK (download closing summary)
Maurizio Scarpa, Executive Member, FILCAMS-CGIL, Italy
Gloria Mills, President, TUC, UK (download speech)
Leonel Gonzalez, International Secretary, CTC Cuba
Statement from the CTC to conference (download)
2003 TUC Congress Motion on Cuba (download)
Institute of Employment Rights Report on Workers and Trade Unions in Cuba (download)
List of European unions represented at the conference (download)
Interview with Leonel Gonzales, International Secretary of the CTC about the
For the full interview in Spanish see www.trabajadores.co.cu/2006/marzo/06/elmundo/lg-europa.htm