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2019 National Delegate Conference
1 January 2019

UNISON applauds the achievement by the people of Cuba in liberating their country and sustaining it as a beacon of socialism over the last 60 years – with remarkable achievements in health, education and culture – in the face of massive oppression by powerful northern neighbour the USA and other reactionary forces.

The Cuban revolution in 1959 swept away the rotten Batista regime and replaced it with a socialist government led by Fidel Castro. For six decades, the small Caribbean island nation of around 11 million people has stood firm against all attempts to invade, to overthrow and to blockade it out of existence. A short lived moment of hope for a change in US policy under President Obama has been replaced by yet more rhetoric and reaction under President Trump.

Conference notes that Cuba has some of the lowest illiteracy and child mortality rates and percentage of students in higher education in the region, plus greatly improved life expectancy rates. It also ranks among the top countries in the world for percentage of women MPs and sustainable human development.

Conference congratulates the Cuban people on the impressive achievements made in health care, education, social care and international solidarity during this time.

Conference applauds Cuba’s outstanding international humanitarianism with 50,000 Cuban health professional working in 69 countries; emergency medical brigades providing vital support during natural disasters, notably the Haitian earthquake and West African Ebola outbreak; and sight restored to more than four million people as part of the Operation Miracle programme. Cuba’s Latin America Medical School which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2019 has also provided medical scholarships for thousands of working class students from Latin America, Asia, Africa and even the United States, free of charge, since opening in 1999.

UNISON has always supported the Cuban revolution and our fellow public service workers and trade unions there, notably through our support for the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) and the smaller but no less vital Scottish Cuba Solidarity Campaign (SCSC).

UNISON Scotland’s International Committee was honoured in November and December 2018 to take part in the union’s delegation to Cuba ahead of the 60th anniversary and also as part of the 80th anniversary of the Cuban TUC (CTC – Central de Trabajadores de Cuba).

Our delegates saw at first hand the hard won benefits for workers and their families in Cuba through meetings with trade unionists, women’s organisations and local communities. Cuba today has 98% literacy – higher than most nations including the USA and far in advance of most ‘developing’ countries. Its education system and health service outperform many rich nations. Famously but still incredibly – despite the blockade – Cuban medical training and expertise is provided free of charge to developing nations throughout Latin America and now in Asia and Africa. Equal rights and pay for women is constitutionally guaranteed, and Cuban women’s representation in government is higher than most countries – with majorities in many areas.

Conference expresses support for the right of Cuba to choose its own economic, social and political path and opposes the USA’s illegal economic blockade.

Conference notes that these achievements have been made while Cuba has suffered under the inhumane US blockade for more than 56 years. While we welcome the reestablishment of diplomatic relations made under President Obama in 2014, the blockade is still very much in place. UNISON expresses serious concern at the return to the aggressive “Cold War” rhetoric and tightening of the blockade made against Cuba by the Trump administration which constitutes new and real threat, not just to the Cuban people, but progressive movements in the region as a whole.

Conference supports the UK government joining 188 other countries in condemning the US blockade at the UN general assembly in 2018. However, Conference believes the government should take concrete measures to sanction British organisations or companies that comply with extraterritorial US blockade legislation over UK sovereign laws. We note the recent example of this in the Open University ban on Cuba students and congratulate the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and the British trade union movement for its work to pressure the Open University to overturn this decision.

Conference agrees to support the proposal of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign to celebrate Cuba’s achievements and strengthen links between British and Cuban trade unions in this anniversary year and agrees to provide publicity and support for events organised under the Cuba60 banner.

Solidarity with Cuba is ever more vital and can bring success, as shown for example by the campaigns to free the Miami Five, and to end discrimination against Cuban academics and students by the Open University. Solidarity is also vital so that Cuba can continue to stand with other countries in Latin America which face similar challenges from right wing populists funded and supported by the USA.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

1) Congratulate the Cuban people, their government and trade unions on the 60th anniversary of their revolution and pledge to work to ensure their continuing and future successes.

2) Campaign for an end to the cruel and illegal blockade, and work to promote international recognition and support for Cuba from governments and parliaments in the UK, European Union and United Nations – and call on the USA to improve its relations with Cuba;

3) Campaign within the TUC to help develop a strategy designed to persuade the UK government to implement measures preventing UK based companies from complying with extraterritorial blockade legislation;

4) Ensure we continue to publicise the threats to the Cuban revolution amongst UNISON members via the union’s publications and press statements;

5) Work collectively through the TUC, the Scottish TUC, the Wales TUC and the Irish Congress of Trades Unions with sister unions to support Cuba;

6) Publicise details of CSC delegations to Cuba to all Branches and Regions on a regular basis, encourage regions and branches to visit Cuba in solidarity with the Cuban people and Cuban trade unions;

7) Encourage all Branches to donate to the Cuba 60 appeal to help fund the costs of organising events;

8) Invite representatives from sister unions in Cuba to visit the UK during 2019 which will include visiting Regions, Branches and workplaces, as well as organising an event involving the invitation of sister unions from Cuba, which Branches and Regions would be invited to participate;

9) Coordinate a UNISON delegation made up of activists from across the union to attend CSC’s Unions for Cuba conference being held in the UK during November 2019 and encourage Branches ad Regions to send representatives to the event;

10) Encourage all branches and regions to display CSC’s Cuba60 exhibition celebrating Cuba’s achievements at appropriate events throughout 2019;

11) Give support to and campaign with the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and the Scottish Cuba Solidarity Campaign;

12) Encourage branches, regions and nations of UNISON to affiliate to the CSC and SCSC.