Cubans brace for labour reorganisation

Cuba is moving up to a million
employees, or a fifth of its workers, off bloated public payrolls and into jobs
where they actually have to work, according to Communist Party and government

The goal is to boost the island’s
struggling economy by targeting what President Raul Castro has called
“unnecessary workers” in a five-year project to reorganize its labour
force in tandem with some economic liberalization.

“We hope to eliminate 200,000
jobs per year, as much as 100,000 of them over the coming year in the capital
alone,” a Communist Party economist said.

Castro said in a speech to young
party supporters in April that payrolls would be cut to help modernize the
economy and that there were possibly more than a million excess workers.

All state agencies were ordered in
January to review payrolls with an eye to trimming unneeded positions,
apparently with dramatic results.

“We have 304,000 employees, of
which it is necessary to reorient 79, 000,” Domestic Trade Minister
Jacinto Angular Pardo said.

“We will do this gradually
over five years as part of a reorganization of the company system, distribution
networks and forms of administration that rid the state of unnecessary burdens
and improve efficiency”.

The plan is just getting under way,
so there have been few layoffs so far, sources said. They said those being let
go are offered other jobs when available.

“The plan is that those over
retirement age will be let go and the rest offered up to three possible jobs,”
said a former party leader in eastern Holguin, with similar reports coming from
various other provinces.

Options are limited because the
state employs about 85 per cent of the work force of 5 million and claims an
unemployment rate of only 2 per cent.

Those who do not accept initial job
offers will have to look for work at the Labour Ministry, get land through the
government’s agriculture land-lease program and take up farming, or live off
family remittances and illegal activity.

They will get unemployment benefits
for just six weeks, but will not be totally out in the cold because all Cubans
receive free health care and education, subsidized utilities, a subsidized food
ration and automatic adjustment of mortgages to 10 per cent of the top
breadwinner’s income.