Posted on

Massive Cuban layoffs

rhondathompson, [email protected]

Social Share

HAVANA – Cuba announced it would cast off at least half a million state employees by mid-2011 and reduce restrictions on private enterprise to help them find new jobs – the most dramatic step yet in President Raul Castro’s push to radically remake employment on the communist-run island.
 Castro suggested during a nationally televised address on Easter Sunday that as many as one million Cuban workers – about one in five – might be redundant. But the government had not previously laid out specific plans to reduce the work force.
 The layoffs would start immediately and continue through the first half of next year, according to the nearly three million-strong Cuban Workers Confederation – the only labour union allowed by the government.
 To soften the blow, it said the government would increase private-sector job opportunities, including allowing more Cubans to become self-employed, forming cooperatives run by employees rather than government administrators and increasing private control of state land, businesses and infrastructure through long-term leases.
 The statement, which was published in state-controlled newspapers and read on government-run radio and television, said that because of the sheer number of workers involved, the layoffs would come slowly, but that they would affect all sectors.
 It did not say which parts of the economy would be retooled to allow for more private enterprise. The union said that the state would only continue to employ people in “indispensable” areas where the labour force was historically insufficient, such as in farming, construction, industry, law enforcement and education.
Currently, the state employs 95 per cent of the official work force. Unemployment last year was 1.7 per cent and hasn’t risen above three per cent in eight years – but that ignores thousands of Cubans who aren’t looking for jobs that pay monthly salaries worth only $20 a month on average. (AP)