Argentinian workers preparing to defend control of factory

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Thirty workers travelled the 1,200 kilometers from Neuquén to protest outside the central courthouse in Buenos Aires.
Map: CIA World Factbook

Factory workers at a ceramic factory in Neuquén, Argentina are preparing to defend their autonomous running of their workplace, as the courts start to look at appointing an owner. The workers have been running the factory themselves since the Argentinian government meltdown in 2001, and say they are more effective working independently.

There are now 410 workers at FaSinPat ('Fabrica sin Patrones' or 'Factory without Bosses'), having hired over 170 new workers in four years of autonomous control. The factory is widely known as Zanon, the name under the previous owner, Luis Zanon, who accumulated some US$170 million in debt, and shut down the factory, firing the workers.

Argentinian government and businesses were in chaos at the time, with the government dissolving repeatedly and defaulting on $88 billion of debt, inflation skyrocketing and people demanding money from banks who had closed their doors.

Like over 200 Argentinian workplaces facing similar conditions, the workers chose spontaneously to run the factory themselves, and continued maintenance and production, to keep trading on their own behalf.

Now thirty workers have travelled the 1,200 kilometers to Buenos Aires, presenting a petition containing thousands of signatures from all over the world at the central courthouse, and mobilising outside.

"With these actions we are marking a playing ground for the judge," said Raul Godoy, Zanon worker and General Secretary of the Ceramists' Union.

Reports of violence against a Zanon worker

As the government has continued its legal assault upon the Zanon factory, at least one factory employee has been reported to have suffered repeated threats and violence at the hand of unknown attackers.

Esteban Magnani, author of El Cambio Silencioso (The Silent Change), a book about worker cooperatives in Argentina told UpsideDownWorld.org, "In Neuquen you have Jorge Sobisch, a right wing governor who wants to be the new [President] Carlos Menem ... wants to show how tough he is ... Zanon is very politicized and famous, which is bad for a governor who wants to be seen as a right wing savior. Sobisch feels the need to crack down now, because the longer he waits, the more powerful Zanon becomes." Some of the workers feel that Sobisch may be approving the attacks or may be culpable in failing to defend the workers.

Magnani indicates incumbent President Néstor Kirchner, described by Wikipedia as "a Peronist with leftist leanings", might defend Zanon. "One of Kirchner’s flags is human rights. Now with this kidnapping and the continued threats, Kirchner shouldn’t have any excuse to not do something about this."

"Subway workers, train workers, airline workers, other recuperated businesses and many other sectors have made it clear that the employees at Zanon will not be alone." Says one Zanon worker, "We are willing to defend the factory with our lives."

It may not come to that. Governnor Sobisch has been attempting to evict the workers of Zanon in an ongoing, highly politicized legal battle for several years. Sobisch has been ordered by the Federal Supreme Court of Argentina to evict the workers as soon as possible.

Other sources consulted about the past record of behavior by Sobisch do not reflect a record of overt violence against the workers. At least one source from October 2004 said that Sobish wants the workers to leave the Zanon factory and work instead in a government-sponsored micro-enterprise project for unemployed workers, constructing prefabricated houses.

Sources

Marie Trigona. "Another Attack on Zanon Occupied Factory" — Grupo Alavío, April 24, 2005 alternate url

See also