msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/4/2011 3:35:00 AM ET 2011-01-04T08:35:00

The first layoffs have begun in the communist government's program to cut the jobs of 500,000 state workers, according to the head of the Cuban Workers Confederation.

Cuban state-run media quoted Salvador Valdes as saying the initial layoffs were occurring in the sugar, agriculture, tourism, health and construction sectors.

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Cuban media, including Monday's edition of the weekly Trabajadores, said Valdes made the comments during a meeting with workers' representatives but didn't specify when it took place.

The Latin American Herald Tribune quoted Valdes as saying the Cuban Workers Confederation would serve as "the guarantor" of the process, which was due to begin Tuesday. The group is the country's only legal union.

The layoffs are to affect 10 percent of Cuba's government work force and are supposed to finish by March. The job cuts are part of an economic overhaul aimed at slashing government expenditures.

The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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