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Argentinian ceramist workers appeal to international solidarity

by celeste argentina Saturday, Nov. 24, 2001 at 1:53 PM

Our strike began over a month ago, with mobilizations and pickets to avoid stock departures, blockages of bridges and highways to fight against the virtual closure of the plant and the subsequent discharge of almost 400 workers in a province where almost 20 % of its population is already unemployed

Neuqu , Argentina, November 16 2001

To solidary trade union, student and political organizations:

We, the ceramist workers of Neuquén (Argentina), are appealing to your solidarity with the strong fight we are carrying out as workers of Zanon Ceramic Factory, in defense of our jobs and for our wages being paid. Zanon Ceramics is the most important private factory in our province, the second ceramics company of our country and the largest and most advanced producer of ceramics in South America.

Our strike began over a month ago, with mobilizations and pickets to avoid stock departures, blockages of bridges and highways to fight against the virtual closure of the plant and the subsequent discharge of almost 400 workers in a province where almost 20 % of its population is already unemployed. During the early stages of this fight the workers took the plant and ran it with the raw materials left in the plant, showing society that the only ones interested in keeping the factory working were its own workers. When facing the threat of violent eviction, we relied on the solidarity and the support of students, human rights organizations and prominent personalities of culture, such as the renowned writer Osvaldo Bayer whose weekly column in the national newspaper Página/12 was dedicated to our struggle.

The employers soon fought back. Justice and the police then cut the natural gas for the plant's kilns, showing once again that they want to prevent the factory from producing and, most of all, they don't want society to see the huge earnings the employers have collected with our work: in just two days of work we produced as much as to cover the salaries of a whole month. Later on the employers were able to delay (by means of an appeal) a judicial sentence favorable to workers that stated (for the first time in the Argentinean labor jurisprudence) that the company was incurring in offensive employer lock-out , and ordered the seizure of the stock for selling them so as to pay the indebted wages.

As the employers remain inflexible, in the last days we have decided to strengthen and deepen our actions with the solidary support of important members of our community, in particular the movement of the unemployed workers. In coordination with many labor, human rights, student and political organizations, we all agreed to carry out strong actions i.e. the blockage of the bridge that unites the provinces of Neuquén and Río Negro, two of the most important provinces in the Argentinean Patagonia, which has had a great repercussion in the local media. Hundreds of members of the Movement of Unemployed Workers of Neuquén took part in those actions, this way reinforcing even more the unity between our union and our jobless fellow-comrades. The leadership of the FOCRA (Ceramist Workers Federation of Argentina), sided with Hugo Moyano's CGT, hasn't offered us any support.

The workers of Zanon, with our democratic union at the front, have decided to resist and to defend our job posts until the last consequences, against an employer that didn't pay wages in time for many months and now they say that they could only re-open the company if massive discharges, redundancies and salary deductions are accepted. We demand the immediate reopening of the Zanon plant controlled by its own workers, without any discharges nor salary deductions and the payment of the whole of the indebted wages. If the employers refuse to do so, we demmand that the State expropriates or confiscates the plant and pass it on to work under the direct control of its own workers, as part of a plan of public works to build housings, schools and hospitals that the people of Neuquén so much need, this way solving the problem of unemployment with genuine job posts.

We know that the victory of our fight won't be easy. As you may know, Argentina is in a serious economic and financial crisis and a recession with few precedents in its history. But we are part of a working class that made six general strikes in the last two years and we have decided to join our fight to the struggle of the "picketer" movements, those unemployed workers who have become, together with their organizations, pickets and road blockages, the vanguard of the struggle against the anti-labor plans of the IMF in the last two years, carried out by the government of De la Rúa and Cavallo with the support of the governors of the PJ (Peronist Party). For that reason our fight is a "test case in confronting the closures, massive discharges and redundancies so usual in the Argentinean factories.

The employers, with the government's complicity, want to smash the workers and our combative ceramist union. They want to make us surrender by means of starving. For that reason we have decided to enable a great strike fund so that we can keep up the fight until the end, appealing to the solidary contributions of social and political organizations of Argentina and the rest of the world.

To send the money, we have opened a bill:

Banco de la Nación Argentina, Neuquén branch.

Savings bank (in US dollars) number 376807605/8

Holder: Angel Velázquez

This bank has branches in London, Madrid, New York, Miami, Montevideo, Santiago de Chile, Santa Cruz de la Sierra and La Paz (Bolivia), Asunción (Paraguay). In any country or city where the bank has no branches, you can make a transfer to that bill, preferably from any bank where the person that makes the transfer has an open bill. To those who have decided to make a financial contribution for our struggle, please get in touch with us via phone at (+54-299) 15-581-6123 or via e-mail to ceramistasneuquen@hotmail.com

From the south of Argentina we greet all of you in comradeship, giving thanks in advance any solidarity with our struggle.

Raúl Godoy

General secretary

Union of Ceramist Workers and Employees of Neuquén (SOECN)

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