Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cuba Says Fired Workers Won't Be Left Defenseless

Sep 28, 2010 11:39 am US/Central

Cuba Says Fired Workers Won't Be Left Defenseless
PAUL HAVEN, Associated Press Writer

HAVANA (AP) ― Cuba on Tuesday gave details of the severance packages it
will offer state workers who lose their jobs in massive government
layoffs slated for the next six months, reassuring a jittery public that
nobody will be left defenseless amid the historic economic reboot.

Many of those fired will receive an offer of alternative work, and can
appeal to labor authorities if they are not happy with it.

For those who cannot find new work immediately, the state will pay
severance of 60 percent of their salary for up to three months,
depending on their seniority, according to an article in the Communist
Party newspaper Granma.

"Cuba will leave no one defenseless," reads the red-letter headline
above the article.

The newspaper has been the preferred conduit of information on the most
sweeping economic changes in Cuba since the early 1990s. No senior Cuban
official, including President Raul Castro, has spoken publicly about the
layoffs since they were announced on Sept. 14.

It was not clear what will happen to workers after the three-month
severance period is up. Many outside economists and Cuba experts have
expressed doubts that the private sector will be able to absorb so many
workers — one-tenth of the island's labor force — in such a short time.

When it first announced the layoffs, Cuba said it was also reforming the
economy to allow for more private enterprise. Since then, the government
has said it would encourage a wide-range of small businesses, allow
islanders to hire employees not related to them and even give credit to
new entrepreneurs.

The changes have been welcomed by many, but there is also fear that they
will cause upheaval in a nation where people are not accustomed to
fending for themselves.

Cuba's communist government employs some 84 percent of the work force,
paying workers about $20 a month in return for free education and health
care, and nearly free housing, transportation and basic food.

President Raul Castro has said the state can no longer afford such deep
subsidies. He says he wants to lay off 1 million workers in the next
five years, and has complained that Cuba is the only country in the
world where people expect to get paid for not working.

The goal of the reforms is to both trim government payroll and spur a
private sector that will increase taxes paid into state coffers. The
government has said the changes are not meant to signal a break with
socialism or an embrace of free-market capitalism.


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