Sep 28, 2010 11:39 am US/Central
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.
JG: That is the big difference between the leaders of the U.S. and the leaders of Cuba. In the U.S. they will throw you out to fend for yourself on the streets. In Cuba, the government will not abandon a single person. Cuba has a system that is based on 'people helping people.' Cuba has to continue to resist and fight the desires and policies of Yankee imperialism.