This report was sent to us by the Partido de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (PTS) Argentina.

Workers' Control in Zanón's ceramic mills (Neuquén, Argentina)

Autor: Titín Moreira Fecha: 26/2/02 Fuente: LVO 97

The workers at Zanón's ceramic mills do not give in, never mind they have been on strike for five months. They have been involved in the struggle to release Fuentes and other CTA leaders, and have also participated in several meetings of the local Multisectorial, raising the need for this to summon all workers and the unemployed in a common regional assembly, which will eventually take place on March 8th. In line with the motions passed at the Multisectorial, the Zanón workers led the picket outside the Regional Hospital, being the biggest delegation present there. The next day, they demonstrated alongside the unemployed rallied in the MTD, demanding that oil giant Repsol should create 10,000 jobs, as they had promised some time ago.

They also traveled to Buenos Aires as part of delegation from Neuquén attending the National Picketers' Assembly last February 16 and 17. On Tuesday 19, in abidance of the resolutions passed at that assembly, they blockaded the route outside the factory. Major delegations of public workers, which had protested in the centre of Neuquén some hours before, were also part of the move. Julio Fuentes, local CTA leader, headed the demonstration, and he spoke out against Mr. Sobisch, the governor of the province of Neuquén, and also went on to denounce the oil workers leaders who had supported Repsol in its lobbying of the government. Faced with the stubborn determination of the workers to re-start production at Zanón, the bosses threatened them with a forced eviction. But the ceramists were able to immediately gather solidarity from all sectors, and a delegation of the Mothers of the Disappeared showed up at the plant spontaneously.

On Thursday 21st they opened the doors of their union branch to the construction workers organizing to oust the union bureaucracy. On Friday 22nd, they published a public statement in the local papers, in which 10,000 local people along with figures from the world over endorsed the support of some 300 workers (out of a total 331) for their union. On top of this came another statement published both in the newspapers Río Negro and Página 12. On March 7th, the rock band Bersuit Vergarabat played for free in support of Zanón's workers, in an unprecedented gesture.

The full re-start of production has been the boldest response by the workers so far. First, because out of the sales of their production will come the money to pay for the living of their families. Secondly, because only by producing under the control of the workers themselves, they will show with the force of facts that the plant should be able to operate fully staffed, with no need to sack workers.

In the face of continued shut-downs and sky-rocketing unemployment, going beyond the jerry-built schemes for a cooperative, a feeble attempt at keeping their jobs, the workers at Zanón, with both their shop stewards' committee and their union at their head are showing that the fight to reopen all the closed factories, and those on the verge of bankruptcy under control of the workers, or else go for their nationalization is the only long-lasting solution to the whole series of closures and daily lay-offs.

It goes without a saying that the struggle waged by the ceramists has won the hearts and souls of the nation, and also the respect of thousands of working class activists across the country. If their fight -now in a critical phase- turns out to be victorious, it shall nourish many more fights "a la Zanón" in the working class movement nationwide. Raúl Godoy and other leaders of the ceramic workers have gone on the record to proclaim that they will only be driven out of the factory dead. La Verdad Obrera and the PTS call on its readership, supporters and also those who believe in the just cause of the workers, to stand by them until they win victory.