Cuba announced on Monday it would lay off “at least” half a million state workers over the next six months and simultaneously allow more jobs to be created in the private sector as the socialist economy struggles to get back on its feet.
The plan announced in state media confirms that President Raul Castro is following through on his pledge to shed some one million state jobs, a full fifth of the official workforce — but in a shorter timeframe than initially anticipated.
OK, clearly– as even Fidel Castro conceded— Cuba’s economic model is in need of radical restructuring. But throwing half a million people out of work in six months to contend with an uncertain private sector? Surely there’s a fundamental issue of workers’ rights here? Surely Cuba’s official trade union is planning mass action, including a general strike, to protest this drastic plan which could leave hundreds of thousands of workers unemployed for who knows how long.
No, of course not. That’s the sort of thing that happens only in countries like, let’s say, Israel.
“Our state cannot and should not continue maintaining companies, productive entities and services with inflated payrolls and losses that damage our economy and result counterproductive, create bad habits and distort workers’ conduct,” the CTC, Cuba’s official labor union, said in newspapers.
The representatives of the Cuban working class sound downright Thatcheresque.
The CTC also said: “Job options will be increased and broadened with new forms of non-state employment, among them leasing land, co-operatives, and self-employment, absorbing hundreds of thousands of workers in the coming years.”
Ah. Well, that’s reassuring.
Last spring dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez described the official (and only) observation of International Workers’ Day in Havana.
In the workplaces everyone had to put in writing their commitment to attend, to not absent themselves from their date “with the Fatherland.” Many high school and technical school students slept at their schools last night, to be brought, very early, to the Plaza of the Revolution, since nothing could be left to chance in this coming together for the workers’ day. Curiously, no banners were seen calling for better wages nor criticizing the radical downsizing currently taking place.
Meanwhile, independent trade union activists most likely to raise hell about these plans are imprisoned or exiled.
Surely all of those who would be outraged if a conservative government in a Western country took the same drastic action will react with similar anger to this action by the Cuban government.
Won’t they, Calvin Tucker? Won’t they, Andy Newman? Won’t they, George Galloway?