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Cubans who work more will now earn more

Cubans who work more will now earn more
Posted on Thu, Jun. 12, 2008
By FRANCES ROBLES
frobles@MiamiHerald.com

In what some experts call Raúl Castro's boldest break yet from
socialism, Cuban state companies have until August to overhaul their
salary structures to one that pays hard-workers more than slackers, the
government newspaper reported Wednesday.

No more will all Cuban workers doing the same job receive the same pay.
Now people who do more will get more — and those who offer quality
service will be rewarded, the vice minister of labor, Carlos Mateu, told
Granma, the country's Communist Party newspaper.

''I think of all the changes made so far, this one is the most
important,'' said Lizette Fernández, a former dissident who campaigned
for a change in Cuba's dual currency system until she moved to Hialeah
last year.

“If you worked in an office in Cuba, you often got paid the same as the
person who cleaned the office. Slow and lazy people got the same or even
more, because the bosses got their jobs through political connections
and didn't do any work.''

Realistically, she said, the change could mean as little as 50 cents in
a nation where many people make as little as $15 a month.

''Fifty cents may not sound like a lot, but at the end of the month,
it's the difference between being able to buy one bar of soap and two
bars of soap,'' she said. “This change offers hope that they will
increase salaries even more.''

Cuba has long struggled to kick start a lagging economy plagued with
unmotivated and underpaid workers. The measure, first announced in
April, is designed to offer incentives to laborers to help turn around
low production.

It is part of a series of changes made since Castro took office Feb. 24
with the self-imposed mandate to increase production and save his
socialist revolution. But most of Castro's moves so far, such as
decentralizing agriculture and offering high-price consumer goods to the
public, have detoured from socialism.

''Egalitarianism is not convenient,'' Mateu said. “It is not fair,
because while it is harmful to pay the worker less than what he
deserves, it is also harmful to give him what he doesn't deserve.''

Among the law's provisions:

• Workers can get bonuses of as much as 5 percent of their base salary
just for meeting production quotas.

• Managers will be limited to a 30 percent wage increase for improved
performance.

• Companies have until August to readjust their payrolls, but if any
company is ready to make the changes, it can do so immediately.

Wages will vary ''according to the nature of the labor performed by the
worker,'' Mateu said. Granma described the process as “the socialist
principle of distribution, where everyone [is paid] according to
quantity and quality.''

Until now, workers have been paid flat rates according to job
descriptions with no incentives.

''I would describe it as a significant departure from the socialist
values Cuba has been espousing,'' said Daniel P. Erikson, a Cuba expert
at the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington, D.C.

“Raúl Castro is also trying to solve a basic problem: Cuba is a country
that does not produce much. Recalibrating salaries is a straightforward
way to solve that problem.''

Susan Kaufman Purcell, director of the of Miami's Center for
Hemispheric Policy, said the new pay system sounds more like another way
for the Cuban government to keep tabs on people.

''I have no idea how they plan to measure this and keep track of it,
unless it's a new task for the CDR,'' she said, referring to the
Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, the neighborhood watch
groups that spy on their neighbors.

''I don't understand how this gives an incentive to work harder,'' she
said. “If they really want to offer incentives, they should go to a
market economy and let people keep the fruits of their labor. This is
going to require increased surveillance, spying and tattling.''

Miami Herald translator Renato Pérez contributed to this report.

http://www.miamiherald.com/136/story/566951.html

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