Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Cuba Delays Mass Layoffs of Workers

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Cuban President Raúl Castro acknowledged yesterday that the frenetic pace of public sector layoffs in recent months is unsustainable and will be scaled back to help brunt the impact of the cuts. The mass firing of up to 500,000 workers, scheduled to occur by April, are part a major economic restructuring toward greater self-employment, which was designed to increase efficiency and worker productivity on the island.

In an evening report on state television news, Mr. Castro was said to have told the government’s Council of Ministers that a project “of this magnitude, which affects in one way or another so many citizens, cannot be framed in inflexible periods.”

Since the reforms were first announced in September 2010 many observers have been concerned that the magnitude of the layoffs, coupled with an extremely short time frame for implementation, could lead to further economic and social turmoil in Cuba. By way of yesterday’s comments, the Cuban government appeared to acknowledge the complexity of moving so many workers from the public sector into self-employment.

Cuba’s first national Communist Party Congress in more than a decade is scheduled to take place in Havana in April. The Congress is widely expected to rubber-stamp last year’s proposed reforms, but the scope of any further changes could well be determined there.

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