Published: Sep 13, 2010 6:11 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 13, 2010 3:11 PM EDT

HAVANA (AP) - Cuba says it will fire at least half a million state workers by mid-2011 and will free up private enterprise to help them find new work - radically remaking employment on the communist island.

The layoffs will start immediately and run through the first half of next year, according to an announcement Monday by the nearly 3 million-strong Cuban Workers Confederation - the only labor union the government tolerates.

To soften the blow, it said the government would authorize simultaneous increases in job opportunities in the non-state sector, allowing more Cubans to become self-employed, to form cooperatives run by employees rather than government bureaucrats and to increase private control of state land and infrastructure through long-term leases.