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Argentina: Two Months Into Strike, Ceramics Workers Continue To Fight

Update from Argentina IMC
Argentina: Two Months Into Strike, Ceramics Workers Continue To Fight (english)

by Argentina IMC 10:25pm Fri Nov 23 '01 (Modified on 10:31pm Fri Nov 23 '01)

The workers of the Zanón ceramics factory in the Argentine province of Neuquén have been carrying out a very tough battle: they have been on strike for almost two months now.

Zanón is one of the most important ceramics companies in South America, a profitable business which has only grown in the past years. Nevertheless, it's bosses have decided that these profits were not enough. In an attempt to reap even more profits, they devised a 'restructuring plan'. As the bosses held a private dispute with the new investors of Zanón, they alleged having financial problems and threatened to close the factory, where 400 workers earn a living to support their families.

The workers, who are not new to the art of resistance, considering the victory they obtained last year after a 9-day strike, are determined not to be defeated. The workers of Zanón have one of the most combative unions in the country: the delegates that are at the head of the factory's union are fighters that helped lead a winning battle against the bosses in the year 2000. The new attack that has been unleashed against them aims to fire more than 34O workers, in order to later hire new workers who would earn lower salaries.

[See background materials in Spanish.]

The bosses stopped paying salaries and suspended medical care, as well as the transport of materials for production and sale. The workers responded by occupying the factory building, not allowing anybody else inside.

As their case was brought to court, the workers showed that what they really want is to work and earn a decent living, by continuing the elaboration of the goods with the material that remained in the factory. In only two days, they produced enough goods to pay the monthly wage for all of the workers, revealing the hypocrisy behind the boss's alleged 'financial difficulties'. This was too much for the bosses of Zanón, who then suspended the factory's gas supply.

Although 'justice' ordered the border police to clear the establishment, this was not possible: the workers warned that they were willing to resist any attempt to close the factory, while public support for their struggle grew. As growing numbers of students and workers joined the picket at the factory doors, the police decided to disobey the judges orders.

A labor department judge then ordered the bosses to pay the salaries. Because of Zanón's refusal to pay, the judge declared an 'offensive lock-out'. This is a witness case in the history of argentine justice.

The workers demanded that the State take charge of commercializing the goods in order to obtain their salaries, as well as the immediate reinstallation of the factory's gas supply, in order to continue production. They are not willing to accept any restructuring plan aimed at firing or suspending workers, just as they won't accept salary reductions.

Until now, the workers have only been paid 100 pesos each, a meager sum of money that cannot possibly maintain them and their families for very long. We mustn't allow the bosses to break this struggle. In their unending desire for ever-growing profits at the expense of hundreds of families, they have used every tool that was available to them. They are relying on the help of bourgeois justice and the complicity of the provincial government, as well as the union bureaucrats of the CGT and the CTA who have done nothing to support the workers of Zanón. They may ultimately rely on the use of force, which they have not yet been able to apply.

We must not allow them to rely on a very powerful tool: Hunger. Just as was done during last years' triumphant strike, it is absolutely essential that we raise thousands of dollars for the strike fund. There are 400 workers and their families that need our solidarity right now.

The workers of Zanón have decided to put their union building on sale in order raise funds. The fund raiser is being carried out on a national level, but this is not enough, and the workers are prepared for a long battle. This is one of the most advanced struggles in the country. If it is defeated, it will set a precedent that will help pave the way for future defeats upon struggling workers in Argentina.

Supportive organizations and individuals can deposit donations to the Solidarity Fund through a paypal account. This can greatly contribute to a victorious end to the struggle of these courageous fighters!

En español: Comisión de Solidaridad en Buenos Aires con los obreros de Zanon en lucha

Dossier Zanon

Reportaje de IMC Argentina a Osvaldo Bayer

Obligan a Zanón a pagar sueldos




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