Cuba’s Union Calls for ‘Unity’ in Face of Layoffs

Patricia Grogg

A half million public sector jobs will be eliminated by the end of March 2011. Photo: Ihosvanny

HAVANA TIMES, Sep 13 (IPS) — The elimination of half a million public sector jobs, starting immediately and lasting through the first quarter of 2011, is one of the most complex and sensitive aspects of the reforms announced by Cuba’s President Raul Castro.

“For years they told me full employment was an achievement of the revolution, and now they’re talking to me about ‘inflated payrolls’. I don’t understand anything…,” a disgruntled store employee, who did not want to give his name, complained to IPS in response to a question about the thorny issue.

In a statement issued Monday, the CTC — Cuba’s only legal trade union — said it must maintain “systematic control” over the “restructuring” and stated that “the unity of workers” will continue to be “the most important strategic weapon.”

The issue is also a focus of discussion in meetings called by the governing Communist Party in workplaces, with the aim of ensuring the “political and social consensus” that must accompany the process, which is to result in the cutting of over one million public sector jobs in the next five years.

According to the CTC, the reduction of 500,000 jobs over the next few months forms part of “the process of updating the economic model and the projections for the economy for the 2011-2015 periods.” (The five-year plan has not yet been announced.”

“These measures are to identify which jobs are indispensable and to relocate (employees) to other jobs wherever necessary and possible or to retrain workers,” the union’s statement says.

It also says that to absorb the labor power that will be made “available,” legal options for “autonomous work” will be expanded and diversified, such as the leasing of rooms, cooperatives, or self-employment, “into which hundreds of thousands of workers will move in the next few years.”

As of 2009, some 5.7 million people in this country of 11.2 million people worked outside the home, including nearly two million women.

With the new measures, the government says it hopes to boost labor productivity, improve discipline and bring about more efficient use of available resources.

“We must erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where you can live without working,” Castro said in August.

The imminent loss of jobs has raised new concerns in Cuba, but also new prospects, expectations and questions with regard to the expansion of private enterprise, as the new tax regime and guarantees for how the new system will function have not yet been made public.

In an unpublished study on the modernization of Cuba’s economic model, which IPS saw, economist Omar Everleny Perez Villanueva says the expansion of self-employment must overcome problems that up to now have made it difficult for people to actually work and support themselves.

He mentioned, for example, problems in purchasing necessary inputs or parts; a contractionary fiscal policy; virtually nonexistent financial aid and government oversight or monitoring; as well as restrictions on hiring others.

In Perez Villanueva’s view, the proposals for expansion of private enterprise should include the creation of small and medium-sized businesses, which, among other advantages, could increase and diversify the offer of goods and services.

In 2004, there were 166,700 legally registered self-employed people or “cuentapropistas”, 39,600 of whom were women.

At the peak of the phenomenon, in the mid-1990s, there were 200,000 cuentapropistas.

But the number of people who were legally registered as self-employed gradually dropped after that, partly because the government did not renew permits for many activities that were initially allowed.

In the public sector, which is the biggest employer in Cuba, “it will only be possible to take on people for the jobs that are deemed indispensable, in areas that have historically been short of labor power, such as agriculture, construction, teachers, police, industrial workers and others,” the CTC statement adds.

Sources of employment will also be generated in areas where major investments are currently being made, like the oil industry, construction, biotechnology, the pharmaceutical industry and tourism. The production of certain goods will also be stimulated, and the export of services will be expanded.

The union says “the changes in employment policy will be applied gradually, will immediately begin to be adopted, and will affect all sectors, due to their magnitude and impact.” In addition, “it will no longer be possible to apply a formula of protecting or indefinitely subsidizing, by means of continued salaries, workers” who have lost their jobs, it adds.

The CTC also says “the personal disposition” of the workers themselves will play “an important role” in their transfer or relocation to other jobs, and stresses that “demonstrated suitability” will be the criteria used to determine who will continue to occupy the available jobs.

The union repeated the government’s position that the state “cannot and should not continue to maintain companies or productive and service enterprises with inflated payrolls and losses that damage the economy, are counterproductive, generate bad habits and distort the conduct of workers.

“Production and the quality of services must be improved, bulky social expenditure must be reduced, and undue gratuities, excessive subsidies, study as a source of employment, and early retirement must be eliminated,” the union adds.

12 thoughts on “Cuba’s Union Calls for ‘Unity’ in Face of Layoffs

  • September 16, 2010 at 4:52 am

    There are only two general core hypotheses or principles upon which a post-capitalist economy can be based–without going back into capitalism.

    One is the core principle that the socialist state should concentrate all the instruments of production in its hands–i.e. monopolize everything productive. This automatically ends the historically evolved institution of private productive property rights, and with them the free trading market.

    This principle is the one that has been tested time and time again in various countries. In every case it has destroyed socialist state power, or–in Cuba–threatens shortly to destroy it.

    The other is as yet a theoretical construct. It is based on the successful workers’ development of the Mondragon, Spain cooperative corporate structure. In this construct the core hypothesis is that the socialist state should hold “participatory” but non-controlling ownership of most industry and commerce. The employee associates (workers) would own the rest and self manage according to the needs and discipline of the socialist-conditioned market.

    In this form of socialism the need for taxes would be absent because the socialist state gets its revenues quarterly when the cooperative employee associates distribute profits to themselves and to the state. The workers would own the means of production directly.

    One form is “state monopoly” socialism. The other is “state participatory” socialism.

    In the first the leading political party wields state power for a few decades, destroys the economy, warps society, disgraces socialism before the world and ultimately loses state power.

    In the second . . . Well, we don’t know for certain because no party has groped its way out of the state monopoly fog and given it a try. Perhaps Cuba will stop the nonsense and be the first?

  • September 15, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Ron, I got news for you what they had on all this 50 years was already capitalism.
    State monopolistic capitalism. The change they are proposing now is to eliminate some of the monopolization in some areas of the economy. There is a list circulating of the areas that Cuban will be able to create private businesses.
    As for Fidel be a humorist?
    That’s a really funny statement!
    He did admit to said what he said to Goldberg for once I was surprise. First time I see him admitting about the colossal mistake the Cuban revolution has been fro Cuba.
    It is not really news that the revolution is a huge mistake that will eventually be rectified maybe when he is not around anymore but what was real news was for him to actually admitted it. I thought that was valiant but after retracting I realize he was just a coward.

    If their system was working as he later said when retracting
    then explain why they have to do all the changes towards market economy? and away from plan economy?
    The economical crisis they face have nothing to do with the global economical crisis.
    Is that they simply ran out of people they can beg for money. Just that plain and simple.
    No more rich to loot, no more loans from capitalist countries or socialist.
    They have got to the end of their tether.

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