This was published by Wildcat in December 2003 but has only now been translated into English, and a short introduction added. Although it is a bit old, it still contains unique insights into the situation, hopes, difficulties and dynamics of the occupation process and many personal interviews. It has also been translated into Polish and is in German and Polish at www.wildcat-www.de
The Neuquén province, where Zanon is located, was one of the epicentres of the protests that swept Argentina in the 1990s. It was here that the piqueteros first emerged in the town of Cutral-Co, and there are many militant trade unionists. Unlike in most of Argentina, many of the attempted privatizations of state owned enterprises were defeated. In May 2006, teachers won a 40% pay rise following a month long strike. But most famous, is the successful takeover of the Zanon tile factory and its subsequent worker-run management. In 2000 the workers went on strike. The employer implemented a lock out and the workers responded by occupying the factory. In October 2001, the workers officially declared the factory to be 'under worker control'. By March 2002, the factory fully returned to production. In April 2003, the courts ordered the police to forcibly take the factory out of the hands of the workers. In response the workers developed a broad based campaign and as the police began to move in over 3000 citizens of Neuquén formed a picket in front of the factory. During the period of worker control, the number of employees has increased from 300 to 470, and wages have risen by 100 pesos a month, and the level of production has increased. Accidents have fallen by 90%.
The workers of Zanon are currently demanding that the provincial and national governments officially recognize the factory as a workers cooperative under state ownership. This is an increasingly common legal status for the many occupied factories in Argentina and would mean that they could stop worrying about eviction and also trade their goods more easily. The move is being resisted by the right-wing MPN leadership of the provincial government, and Kirchner´s government has shown little interest in the resolution of the issue. However, the proposal has widespread public support in Neuquén, with a petition achieving 9,000 signatures in support of the workers proposal, and the issue is due to be debated in the near future within the provincial congress.
Further information on the Zanon factory can be found at the web site http://www.obrerosdezanon.org.
For more on the factory occupation movement in Argentina there is also a recent documentary called 'The Take' http://www.thetake.org/