This morning the workers at ceramics factory Fabrica Sin Patrones (FaSinPat) in Neuquén were officially granted the rights over the factory 11 years after they occupied it.
FaSinPat has a cooperative structure where all workers are paid the same wages and all decisions go through an assembly where each worker’s vote has the same weight. A special assembly was called today to discuss and celebrate the expropriation of former owners Zanón.
“Today was a very emotional assembly,” Natalio Navarrete, Deputy Secretary of the Ceramist Trade Union of Neuquén and worker at FaSinPat, told the Argentina Independent.
“We’ve been fighting for many years to make sure this factory wasn’t abandoned and to prove that it was profitable,” he added.
Zanón was created by an Italian entrepreneur during the last military dictatorship with which it had close ties evidenced by Luigi Zanón’s inaugural speech in which he gave a lengthy praise to the military junta and its policies.
During the Menem years Zanón expanded exponentially and irresponsibly, fuelled by the dollar-peso peg, its size quadrupled in the space of a few years.
In 2001 the crisis triggered a massive redundancy plan that was opposed by the workers who took over the factory in October of that year.
Eleven years later, executive order 2977 made official the expropriation of the factory, formerly owned by Zanón Ceramics. This is the last step in the judicial process initiated three years ago. Although Navarrete said this is not the ideal form of expropriation, the workers still have to pay off the former owners some compensation, it was a huge step and the result of a lengthy battle.
Marcelo Morales, one of the representatives of the cooperative, said that the remaining paperwork and payments would be made within the next week.
“One of the workers today at the assembly said at first she thought that we were crazy, occupying a factory, to want to expropriate it, but now she realises it is only way she managed to support her family and send her daughter to study,” says Navarette.
Despite this fundamental step having been taken Navarette believes there is still a long road ahead for the workers at FaSinPat, “one problem we currently have is technological production strength, we don’t have the credit that large corporations get and we need to make a big investment to renovate machinery. That’s the next big step,” he explains.
FaSinPat was the first factory in the country to have been taken over by its workers, an initiative that has attracted large interest and support. Last November world famous artist Manu Chao had visited the factory and performed for the workers to show his support of the initiative in its ten-year anniversary.
“The important thing is self-representation, the strength of a horizontal model is that detractors don’t know how to deal with it, they want a head or someone to attack” explained the artist in a press conference.
Although the workers at FaSinPat have been considered an example for their fellow workers across the world they remain with their feet firmly on the ground as Navarrete explains: “A lot of comrades have taking us as an example, this is true. But we are no one to tell anybody how to do things. If they want to know about our experience and we can give them advice great, but in the end it is down to each and everyone to decide for themselves considering their own situation, circumstances and factory.”