City: Thessaloniki, Greece
A Trade Union that is fighting for the independent operation and self-management of their abandoned factory.
Photo courtesy of borderlinereports.net
Holding Organisation: BIOME Status: self-managed factory People involved in the project: approximately 40 workers of the trade union, 15-25 of whom work every day Public partners: NO Private Partners: NO Sources and links: http://biom-metal.blogspot.gr/; viomesynergatiki à yahoo.gr
The idea was to reopen the factory in a new form that would produce ecological cleaning products based on raw materials in the region and run by the workers themselves.
The local context:
BIOME used to be a chemical industry which produced products for construction, adhesives, etc., and was functioning as a subsidiary of "FILKERAM". After the bankruptcy petition lodged by the owners in 2011, BIOME has since passed the liquidation of assets stage. BIOME as a business was neither closed nor declared bankrupt; instead it was abandoned by its owners, leaving 70 employees without work since May 2011 and with no right to compensation.
The starting point:
In 2011, during discussions with the owners around the re-opening of the factory, it became clear that there was no intention to do so. The workers then turned to the Ministry of Labour, proposing to buy shares and to reopen, but without taking on the debt of the factory. The proposal was not accepted, leading them to the decision to act on their own initiative.
Steps and development of the action:
- 2011: discussions with the owners and the Ministry of Labour for the re-opening of the factory
- 2013: re-opening of the factory by the trade union
How does it work?
The employees are also shareholders of the factory and all hold equal status in relation to rights, obligations and wages. Before launching the project, they visited respectively various foreign countries (Italy, Japan, India) in order to gain expertise. At the same time, there have been efforts to create a network in Europe that encompasses all of these types of actions. The factory changed its production and now produces natural cleansers with organic raw materials. The new production has gained the interest of investors from Europe and studies show that its function could quadruple the company, opening the turnover to production and increasing fivefold the number of workers, thus aiding to develop the region.
Added value of the project and making resources available:
- Economic benefits: it ensures work not only to current employees of the factory but, based on studies that have been carried could, it has the potential to increase fivefold the number of staff. - Ecological benefits: it uses natural raw materials for the production of natural cleaners, making it environmentally friendly. - Shaping policies: it creates new ways of operating a factory which are based on self-organisation and equal participation of workers throughout the process.
The main problem facing the “experiment” is its legal status, given that the Ministry of Labour has refused to provide a solution thus far. There have been many suggestions from employees concerning finances, but none have been accepted. These suggestions include taking loans either from co-operative banks or from foreign investors who have expressed interest, but the Ministry is not recognising the political responsibility necessary to initiate such action.
At present, the method of disposal of products is based on solidarity and the barter economy, offering mere subsistence to workers. A more viable solution is needed for the long term.
Trying to find a sustainable solution to the legal status and financial security of BIOME; putting constant pressure on the Ministry and gaining information and support through public opinion. There is a solidarity caravan in many cities for the struggle of BIOME which is trying to motivate people and increase pressure on the State.