Workshy the first in line to lose jobs as Cuba feels economic strain
LAZY Cuban workers face the axe first, according to government plans to slash the Communist state's public payroll by 500,000 within six months.
The plans, along with a timetable for which government sectors will feel the cuts first, are laid out in an internal Communist Party document, which emerged yesterday.
The document says workers at the ministries of sugar, public health, tourism and agriculture will be let go first - and some lay-offs already began in July. The last in line for cutbacks include Cuba's Civil Aviation and the ministries of foreign relations and social services.
On Monday, Cuba announced plans to cut 500,000 state workers by March 2011 and help them get work in the private sector, in the most sweeping reforms instituted since president Raul Castro took over from brother Fidel in 2008.
The 26-page document - which is dated 24 August and laid out like a PowerPoint presentation with bullet points and large headlines - explains what to look for when deciding whom to lay off. Those whose pay is not in line with their low productivity and those who lack discipline or are not interested in work will go first. It says that some dismissed workers should be offered alternative jobs within the public sector.
Many of the workers laid off will be urged to form private co-operatives. Others will be pushed into jobs at foreign-run companies and joint ventures. Still more will need to set up their own small businesses - particularly in the areas of transport and house rental.
The document hints at higher wages for the best workers - something Mr Castro has been promising for years - but says: "It is not possible to reform salaries in the current situation."
The outline includes a long list of "ideas for co-operatives", including raising animals and growing vegetables, construction jobs, driving a taxi and repairing vehicles - even making sweets and dried fruit.
Many of those jobs are already done by Cubans working in the black market who pay no tax on what they earn.
In a country where doctors and scientists make only slightly more than the national average monthly salary of about 13, it is not uncommon to see surgeons driving illegal taxis in their spare time. By adding to the legal free-market jobs, the government presumably hopes to increase its paltry tax revenues as well as reducing its bloated payroll.
The internal document refers to a "new tax system" that will be "more personalised and more rigorous". It says taxes will be collected on wages, sales, social security payments to pensioners and on small businesses that employ people. The state employs 95 per cent of the official work force - some 5.1 million people. Just 143,000 work officially in the private sector.
The document warns that one of the main challenges Cuba will face is that many of the fledgling businesses won't get off the ground as many workers will lack the experience, skill or initiative to make it on their own.
"Many of them could fail within a year," the document says, without outlining what to do with people whose enterprises go under.
The changes announced on Monday promise a radically altered economic outlook, especially for Cubans in their 20s and 30s who have known nothing but the paternalistic communist system ushered in by Fidel Castro in his 1959 revolution.
But they were not entirely surprising. Raul Castro has warned for years that the state could no longer afford to subsidise every part of Cuban life.
Some Cubans, however, were caught off guard. "I heard the rumours about firings a while ago," said Luis Estrada, 55, who works in a health clinic. "I hope nobody will be left defenceless. Here, everyone has a job."
Yierser Gonzalez, 35, said he would be happy to give up his state job and set up his own food stall, but that he worried about others.
"About 100,000 will find private employment, but what will they do with the rest?" Mr Gonzalez asked.
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