The workers of the Zanon
ceramics factory, also known as the FaSinPat cooperative (Fábrica Sin Patrones – Factory without Bosses) in the province of Neuquén, Argentina, have achieved 15 years of workers’ self-management at their factory and are still fighting to defend their jobs today.
In 2001, during the economic crisis that swept Argentina, the ceramic workers fought to defend their jobs and stay the hand of the Zanon boss who tried to fire all personnel and escape, leaving behind a trail of unemployed workers and an empty shed in the Industrial Park of Neuquén.
We embarked on a struggle that was led by the Ceramic Workers’ Union (SOECN), which we managed to reclaim for our members. The union became a vital tool in the struggle, where the democratic practice of workplace assemblies undoubtedly helped us move forward in a united and organized fashion.
There were very difficult moments: tents at the gates of the factory, no money to pay salaries, and subsisting on strike funds raised by the community and various organizations.
What followed next is now a well-known story. We took the fate of the factory and of the families that fought alongside us into our own hands and restarted production. This breathed life into what became workers’ self-management at Zanon.
From that point, we fought day by day, year after year, until we achieved the expropriation of the factory, finally approved by the provincial government of Neuquén in 2009. However, the majority of parliament did not want to make the question of technological renovation a part of the Expropriation Bill, something that we already knew would be a necessity for our survival.
This did not stop us. We kept up production, all the while continuing to demand that the various governments grant credits for the renewal of machinery. We presented proposals, we mobilized and underwent dozens of legal procedures. Technicians, engineers, accountants and economists developed a project of technological renovation with a projected budget of 140 million Argentine pesos ($8.5 to $9 million USD).
The Ministry of Economy has received our application for credit from the Argentine Economic Development Fund (FONDEAR) requesting approximately 50 million Argentine pesos (around $3 to $3.25 million USD). We still await the granting of this credit so vital to the factory’s continued existence.
Today, with our machinery aging well over 30 years, it is proving impossible to maintain production levels. The situation is becoming critical. We are unable to cover our biweekly paychecks, and are in serious danger of losing jobs that have sustained nearly 300 families.
There is no way we are going to allow our conquest to be crushed after fifteen years. There is no way we are going to allow the factory to close.
While we are fighting for technological renovation, we also have to support our families. For this reason, we have launched a Solidarity Fund for donations that will allow us to cover a portion of our wages and to continue producing. We appeal to the solidarity and the assistance of the international community and various organizations–whether they be union, social, student, human rights organizations etc.–to make their solidarity contributions so that “familias en la calle nunca más” (families will never again be in the streets).