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Greek Workers Experiment

Photographer: Alkis Konstantinidis

 

In the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, the Industrial Mining S.A. (Vio.Me), a subsidiary company of the Philkeram Johnson Group, was considered as one of the major producers and distributors of building materials, such as plaster, tile adhesive, grouting, and mortar. But it was unable to survive the impact of the financial crisis which has left Greece with an unemployment rate over 25 percent. It closed in September 2011 making around 150 workers redundant.

 

The 38 remaining members of the workers’ union decided to occupy the plant, reopen it and run it themselves, following the abandonment of the industry by its former management and the bankruptcy of the mother company Philkeram Johnson. After a long campaign to return the factory to profitability, production began again on 12 February 2013. Running as a collective, their motto is: 'If they can't, we can'.

 

Initially, the workers announced that all the products in storage would be auctioned at the two thirds of their price, in order to cover the basic needs of the employees and buy raw material to re-start production. During daily meetings, the 38 remaining members of the workers’ union decide on their priorities like the preservation of the plant at a functional state, research on new products and assessing the current legal situation. Future profits and losses will be equally divided among the members of the union and decisions will be taken only during general assemblies.

 

Over the next few months the workers face many challenges, such as finding new trading partners, affordable transportation, developing new distribution networks, negotiating Greek bureaucracy and legal procedures as well as ensuring the security of the plant and its financial records.

 

According to the workers’ website, www.viome.org, the new project has received support not only from local people but also from trade unionists and workers all over the world