- Associated Press - Monday, September 13, 2010

HAVANA | Cuba’s communist leaders already have determined what soon-to-be-dismissed workers should do after they get pink slips in sweeping government layoffs, detailing a plan for them to raise rabbits, paint buildings, make bricks, collect garbage and pilot ferries across Havana’s bay.

Many of the workers tossed from state jobs into the marketplace could see their new enterprises fail within a year, officials acknowledge.

The plans, along with a timetable for which government sectors will feel the ax first, are laid out in an internal Communist Party document obtained Tuesday by the Associated Press.

Cuba on Monday announced plans to cut 500,000 state workers by March 2011 and help them get work in the private sector, in the most sweeping reforms instituted since President Raul Castro took over from his brother in 2008.

The document says workers at the ministries of sugar, public health, tourism and agriculture will be let go first — and some layoffs already began in July. The last in line for cutbacks include Cuba’s Civil Aviation and the ministries of foreign relations and social services.

Many laid-off workers will be urged to form private cooperatives. Others will be pushed into jobs at foreign-run companies and joint ventures. Still more will need to set up their own small businesses — particularly in the areas of transport and house rental.

The 26-page document — which is dated Aug. 24 and laid out like a PowerPoint presentation with bullet points and large headlines — explains what to look for when deciding whom to lay off.

Those whose pay is not in line with their low productivity and those who lack discipline or are not interested in work will go first. It says that some dismissed workers should be offered alternative jobs within the public sector.

The document hints at higher wages for the best workers — something Mr. Castro has been promising for years — but says, “It is not possible to reform salaries in the current situation.”

The outline includes a long list of “ideas for cooperatives,” including raising animals and growing vegetables, construction jobs, driving a taxi, and repairing automobiles — even making sweets and dried fruit.

Many of those jobs already are done by Cubans working quietly on the black market who pay no tax on what they earn. In a country where doctors and scientists make only slightly more than the national average monthly salary of $20, it is not uncommon to see surgeons driving illegal taxis in their spare time.

By adding to the legal free-market jobs, the government presumably hopes to increase its paltry tax revenues as well as reducing its bloated payroll.

The internal document refers to a “new tax system” that will be “more personalized and more rigorous.” It says taxes will be collected on wages, sales, social security payments to retirees and on small businesses that employ people.

Currently, the state employs 95 percent of the official work force — some 5.1 million people. Just 143,000 work officially in the private sector.