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Workers' control of FaSinPat continues despite attacks

Article by Gladys Martinez, Diagonal Amid threats and attacks, the workers at the Argentine ceramic factory FaSinPat (for Factory Without a Boss) are organizing to maintain workers' control of the factory and to overcome the legal obstacles that threaten the factory's existence. FaSinPat (formerly Zanon), under workers' control since 2001, could be resold to a new owner, which according to the workers would result in the loss of many jobs or even the closure of the factory.

Over the last several weeks, leaders of the Ceramic Workers' Union in the province of Neuquen and their family members have received death threats, and the wife of one of them was kidnapped and tortured in an attempt to make the workers give up their struggle for control of the factory. The workers believe that the attacks are following up on the threats made by Luis Manganaro, Minister of Security and Labour in Neuquen, who in December labeled the workers "delinquents."

Two weeks ago, a judge began a 'cram-down' procedure to recover the factory, that is to say, to sell it to a new factory owner who will pay off the debt of more than $170 million pesos (approx. USD$56 million) left by the previous owner, Luis Zanon, found guilty of carrying out an "offensive lock-out." The workers, however, are demanding that the law of expropriation they presented to Congress in November be passed in order to recognize the workers' management of the factory and declare its production to be in the public interest, which would allow it to increase production and double the number of workers.

Worker control

In mid-2001 after the owner Luis Zanon, heavily indebted to the provincial government, tried to close down the factory that 380 workers depended on for a living, the workers decided to take over. "We don't have bosses," they say proudly. The coordinators and supervisors are chosen amongst themselves, and they have all learned how to control and manage the running of the factory.

From the 270 workers who decided to stay on, today there are more than 450, and they have increased their production from 15,000 metres of ceramics per month to 300,000 metres, which almost meets the national demand for these products. Job safety has also increased. With Luis Zanon there were an average of 300 accidents per year, half of which were serious, and one death per year. Under worker management the number of accidents has fallen to 33 per year, all of which were minor. The workers now have health services and life insurance.

Part of the benefits are being invested in the community: the workers donate more than 600 square metres every month to hospitals, schools, community kitchens and libraries; they have signed agreements with universities; and the workers themselves built a health centre that neighbours have been demanding for more than twenty years.

The workers at FaSinPat demand the definitive expropriation of the factory, which would allow production to increase and the number of workers to rise to between 800 and 1,000. While waiting for the legal decision, management of the factory under workers' control continues and solidarity builds among Argentina's social movements.

Translated by Shana Yael Shubs

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