Although she doesn’t have a face, she does exist. Because she’s scared to disclose her real name we will dub her Laura. What I’m about to reveal could get her fired from her job. But she doesn’t want to remain silent any longer. She needs the world to know the humiliations that as a working woman she has had to endure
Laura works as a custodian for SEPSA, a security and protection company. She has a 260 Cuban pesos monthly salary and an additional stimulus bonus of 25 Cuban convertible pesos (1 CUC = US$1.08). She works a 24-hour shift and is then off for the next 72 hours.
The day she was hired, the shift manager asked for her to be made a member of his team. She was assigned to a post far from the center of the city and therefore from her house. A lonely place, where at night, the mosquitoes seemed to be throwing a party.
At the beginning her boss was amiable, complemented her beauty often and use to tell her that she had the conditions needed to work at an office and that she could count on him to obtain that kind job. He got her exited about the possibility of a better job.
After some time passed, she asked to be assigned to a different position, but her request was denied. The flattering behavior of her boss ended as soon as she started a romantic relationship with a co-worker who did not had a high position in the hierarchy. She was under the impression that she was being punished. Not long after, her suspicion was confirmed. A person let her know that her boss was making her life more difficult because she refused to have sexual relations with him. My friend did not complain, she remained silent and went on with her life.
However, that’s not the only thing she has had to endure: the company owes her 49 vacation days (more that two years without taking a break). According to what was explained to her at the central management office, the reason is the lack of available workers to cover her position
On the other hand, her Union hasn’t done anything to correct this flagrant violation of her working rights. Notwithstanding, the organization demands the payment of a monthly association fee from its members. Laura pays 30 Cuban pesos yearly for the right to be a member of her Union.
The workers complain secretly. They are aware of the consequences of lining up against the administration. They could be compelled to quit their jobs. Their bosses have all the power needed to make their lives miserable.
Constant and unexpected inspections are conducted, sometimes, three times per shift. Disciplinary measures, “for violation of the regulations” are applied if any worker is found to sitting down, having their shirt collar unbuttoned, or not carrying the baton used by security personnel. In addition, they could lose the 25 convertible pesos stimulus bonus, which is by far the most painful method of punishment.
In order to keep her employment, Laura has endured disrespectful treatment from her managers, sexual harassment and all kinds of violation of her working rights. She has a son to support and she needs to contribute to her parents household economy; for those reasons she endures without complaining.
Laura’s suffering is also shared by many female Cuban workers. Their efforts and professional performance is not acknowledged by their bosses and they have nobody to protect them. They are totally at the mercy of their superiors, who take advantage of their positions to violate their working rights with total impunity.
Translated by: Miguel A. Gomez Mujica