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• Argentina

Factories recovered by workers
What problem does it solve?

 Recovering the factories through workers organised in cooperatives represents an appropriate answer to the situations of crisis, as that occurred in Argentina, and involved also several countries, causing the closure of the productive factories. Even the relocation of the production, typical of the global economy, often causes the abandon of the factories by their owners. In all these situations the workers loose their job places becoming dependent by rare means of social protection, and in general the overall society loose a huge patrimony represented by the highly skilled technical and labour competences, in addition to the values of machineries and equipments which are abandoned.

However the process developed in Argentina represents an innovative economic issue in its wider meaning.

Entrepreneurial costs do not exist within the factories recovered by the Cooperatives: high management costs, profits of the enterprise disappear and the workers realise the utopia of the entrepreneur, i.e. the workers self-manage the factory as their own.

In each one of these closed factories of Argentina, the employees came into strikes to claim for their owing wages and their social benefits, organising themselves in Cooperatives. These Cooperatives adopted appropriate ways for making the factories functioning and lasting over time, taking into consideration the traditional experiences of the country,

Specifically they decide that:

  • All members take the same wage (which has subsequently leaded to sharing the profits). This aspect meets the three important objectives of unity, solidarity and harmony.
  • Cooperatives do not accept external management. The management is realized by the workers. The workers take their decisions in wide and participative assemblies. The Executive Board is subjected to the Assembly and represents the executive branch of its decisions. This is an important aspect that enables avoiding a new traditional ownership where the Executive Board takes decisions at distance from the member and distant from the real situation.
  • Cooperatives are not biased by the capital. In many cases they have been proposed to commercialize the products against capitals, but they always rejected this solution as inacceptable.
  • Cooperatives did not get any credit or any kind of loans. Among many cooperatives, even if their members are heavily in debts or can loose their homes, they still contribute by giving their labour force. This decision was hard at beginning but gave soon its results.
At the beginning of this experience a country’s policy at support of the factories recovered by their own workers was absent. Nevertheless as much as these experiences were increasing and consolidating their productive model, the Ministry of Labour Employment and Social Security and the Ministry of Social Development of the Argentinean Government, provide different strategies to support the recovered factories. The cooperatives submitted to the relevant institutions their legal documentation (statutory; authorities, financial balance sheets, etc…) and a project including the amount requested, its use, the direct and indirect beneficiaries, additional necessary information and the provisional budget, in order to obtain different kinds of supports.

At the same time the Movement of Recovered Factories set up a solidarity fund which foresees that the best structured cooperatives would give part of their worker’s salary to the new ones, functioning as a guarantee to pay for services and to provide shared available resources.

During the factories’ recuperation process the workers took the responsibility for the services, the taxation and for keeping the production active. Even if the employees were running an enormous risk, they realised that they had always taken it during their whole job-career as employed people, in each single worked hour. The difference lies in the revenues that are distributed in equal parts among all the members associated to the cooperative, once they have planned their expenses to buy row materials and inputs.

This experience showed it is possible to break few traditional paradigms:
  • workers cannot manage a company. The 300 factories in full production are a forceful response to that is possible.
  • Workers are not competitive. The 300 recovered factories demonstrate that it is possible to maintain and even to improve the quality of production and to obtain better prices in the market, in addition to reducing costs by eliminating the entrepreneurial cost.
  • Without a self-own capital is impossible to start the economic cycle. These cooperatives demonstrated that even without having a start-up capital is possible to recover the factories obtaining the rental contract, having their own organization, the competence and experience attained in many years of work.
The process by which the workers recover their own sources of job is based on a solidarity system. Common needs become the driving economic force. If the goal is to preserve the sources of labour in the country, the factories closed down in times of crisis could all be in the hands of workers organized in Cooperatives. The reform of the Bankruptcy Act has created the legal basis to implement this innovative policy. The new productive model, which brings the business cost to zero, can provide enormous benefits, producing the needed goods and services of the country.