The Special Development Zone Mariel from within

After working two years in the Special Development Zone Mariel (ZEDM) Yasmany Cruz Garcia has purchased several appliances and other small things that contribute to a better quality of life. Although he is just an ironworker in DINVAI, his salary is higher than most professionals outside the ZEDM, not only in the province but throughout the country: an average of 500 pesos and 50 CUC a month, figures that vary depending on the work plan.

As Yasmany, over 1,500 Artemisa people related to different areas of ZEDM found material and professional satisfaction in a place that has been established as one with the best and the most coveted jobs in the region.

Among new experiences and opportunities

Yanset Hernández Cruz, graduated as Bachelor in Civil Construction Technician, at only 23, has gone a comparable way to the work of any experienced engineer. She joined the project immediately after completing her studies and moved through its various areas, including the construction of a bridge of reinforced soil-first of its kind in Cuba and in the arrangement of the container yard, the foundation, which the RTG cranes move over.

Yanset has been head of group in the former International Economic Association (IEA), today DINVAI where she accumulated no little experience. Today she works in the preparation of the Logistics Support Area (ZAL).

Also present from the beginning of ZEDM mechanical engineer Adalberto Martínez Matos, shares his experiences: “I worked for 4 years at AEI, as an assembling specialist, leading a brigade in charge of putting the piles supporting the pier. After soldering these tubes of a meter in diameter and 12 long, with tremendous rigor, they were checked with ultrasound to verify that there was no damage, because at the slightest problem we had to chop and start again. We worked 24 hours a day with awareness of the importance of what we did. The RTG cranes, however, traveled already assembled in special ships.”

Adalberto currently serves as Energy Specialist at the Mariel Container Terminal (TCM), which opened in January this year. “We are sponsored by the PSA Corporation, the largest of its kind in the world, so we have state-of-art technology. Last month the Havana Container Terminal (TCH) closed and all ships enter through here now. The workers are becoming increasingly practical and, consequently, improved container movements per hour. Before we were downloading 15 an hour and now reaches 23 “, he says.

“The TCM has a high energy and fuel consumption, so we are evaluating new equipment, bringing statistics to see what we can do to save. In general, we have all the conditions to fulfill our role in the future of ZEDM “says Adalberto.

More than 1, 500 thousand workers in the province of Artemisa are working in the Special Development Zone of Mariel / Photo: Yudivián Almeida Cruz.
More than 1, 500 thousand workers in the province of Artemisa are working in the Special Development Zone of Mariel / Photo: Yudivián Almeida Cruz.

Meanwhile, Lester Lazaro Plasencia Moreno began his adventure in a different area than his field. He was hired since December 2011 as a specialist B for assembly of the soil plant.

“I’m a mechanical engineer and had never been to a construction site, so I have gained knowledge and experience in an area outside what I studied. To this is added the great change which represented coming from a completely Cuban system to one where the administration, in large percentage, was foreign, “says the current A specialist in engineering works.

“We are currently in the second stage of the railway: the construction and repair of terminals where people should take the train. Also I keep myself involved in small projects like building the platform of a real estate property and the provision of roads, “he concludes.

To each according to his work

Prior to his current occupation, Lester was employed by the Cement Distributor Company, one of the best paying workplaces in the industrial town of Artemisa. However, the difference is remarkable: “I used to make about 500 pesos and 12 cuc, and today the average is 700 pesos and 70 cuc, provided we meet the plan.”

Nereyda Alvarez Duarte, investor on site, agrees on that. “My work is to guide, because the investor monitors, controls all work in the project, in this case the railroad comprising the Almendares-Guanajay stretch. I must ensure that the technical and executive projects are met.

“I have a lot of workload because the work is very dynamic, but I’m compensated by working conditions and wages, which triples my previous one. That has a direct impact in my house: I can go on excursions, please my son, meeting needs in the family which I had not previously covered. Living conditions are others, “she explains.

The ZEDM has workers from provinces like Guantánamo, Sancti Spiritus, Granma, Holguin, Camaguey, Cienfuegos and Villa Clara / Photo. Yudivián Almeida Cruz.
The ZEDM has workers from provinces like Guantánamo, Sancti Spiritus, Granma, Holguin, Camaguey, Cienfuegos and Villa Clara / Photo. Yudivián Almeida Cruz.

According to the supervisor, the change in terms of labor discipline and commitment is significant: “Sometimes at 11:00 pm I have not finished. Delivery should be higher, but I do not want to lose what I have. “

Faced with this reality, the brain drain to the ZEDM worries quite a few in the field of state enterprise, there are several scenarios that have manifested the need to increase stimulation to workers and improve working conditions to become more competitive especially within the Mariel zone.

However, ZEDM is not without pitfalls.

According to Abel Sotero Rondon, who is leading the lathe operators in the Central Workshop of DINVAI, not all material conditions are created: “We give maintenance and repair of all broken equipment. Those are repaired primarily by the effort and initiative of the workers. The company is currently in the transition from mixed to purely Cuban and has had some difficulties in management. “

Although still the means of protection transport and food are guaranteed, quality has declined in the latter, Sotero says. This, together with the reduction or underpayments, has caused part of the workers wishing to migrate to the TCM, where there are better options.

Plasencia mentions another difficulty: “The ZEDM is very large and workforces are scattered throughout the different areas. For this reason, the information is not good at all. Communication between workers and management does not work well. For example, there is much talk of changing the payment system, but nothing has been officially communicated. “

Payment to workers ZEDM works as follows: The employing agency gets 20 percent of salary as agreed with the foreign entity, which pays in dollars. That is changed to pesos at a rate of 10 × 1, and the result of that change is perceived as salary by the worker. Afterwards, they have to pay 5 percent on personal income tax and another 5 percent in respect of contributions to social security. If the foreign company pays $ 100 for an employee, the employing agency keeps 20. The other 80, at an exchange rate of 10 × 1 will be 800 pesos (instead of the 1920 he would receive at official rate of 24 × 1). After the 5 percent income tax that becomes 760 pesos. And after the 5 percent contribution to Social Security he ends up with 722. Ffor every dollar earned by the country, the worker is left with 72, 2 cents.

From here and there

Besides the Artemisa inhabitants, workers from other provinces show their interest in the ZEDM opportunities. In the Central Workshop work more than 100 workers from the different municipalities of the province of Havana, says Sotero.

Meanwhile, Plasencia said: “There are permanent employees and others under contract from provinces like Guantánamo, Sancti Spiritus, Granma, Holguin, Camaguey, Cienfuegos and Villa Clara. Many from the distant provinces rent at Mariel, working for long periods without a break, including weekends, and then take a long rest and visit their places of origin. “

Although he now lives in Mariel Yuniel Buedo Rodriguez birthplace is Holguín. When TCM started, Yuniel went through a coursea nd was selected to be port equipment C operator.

“The TCM is still new and has many prospects for progress. We apply a new computer system to handle containers. Everything is of the best modern technology in America. We seek better performance because stimulus is paid. In your work is your salary. We charge according to the movement of containers: 0.08 CUC per container if it is moving it in the boat and 0.04 CUC when uploading; that is, the dispatch. The average standard is 22 containers a day. We work on alternate shifts of eight hours, which means that the TCM works 24 hours. No Saturday, Sunday or holidays, “confirms Yuniel.

On his way to his workplace, Yasmany Cruz sees every day in front of the administrative building of the TCM long queues of people interested in working there. According to Martínez Matos, “The selection process is rigorous. Interviews were made ​​by both the Cuban side as the foreign one. As we are beginning, the demand for labor will increase. Now they are offering many courses and the best are chosen to move from theory to practice”.

Beyond the contribution of ZEDM to the future economic progress of the country, its impact on life and family environment of more than 1,500 Artemisa people who work there, and even those outside the province who have chosen to be employed in its work areas, is already noticeable.

The brain drain towards ZEDM worries quite a few in the field of state enterprise / Photo: Yudivián Almeida Cruz.
The brain drain towards ZEDM worries quite a few in the field of state enterprise / Photo: Yudivián Almeida Cruz.

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