Catalan, Serbian workers 'squat' in factories
Published Jan 6, 2008 9:42 PM
The phrase “sit-down strike” generally evokes images of the 1930s,
specifically the 1936-37 takeover of General Motors in Flint, Mich., that led
to the recognition of the United Auto Workers. However, in 2007 a number of
sporadic sit-downs have occurred outside the U.S., most recently in Serbia and
the Catalan region of Spain. Workers at the Behr auto parts plant in Barcelona
and the “Shinvoz” factory in Zrenjanin, Serbia, are ringing in the
new year by occupying their place of employment.
Earlier this year workers occupied factories in Canada, Australia, Wales and in
the Spanish state.
The 470 Shinvoz metal workers are protesting the privatization of their
factory. They are supported by workers of Jugoremedija, a pharmaceutical plant
that workers had occupied to protest being privatized. They ended the
nine-month occupation when their 58 percent stake in the plant was
“At this moment,” writes the Balkan edition of Z magazine,
“these workers are the most progressive element of Serbian society. They
are fighting for their own working places, for equal rights, and they are
inspiring whole Serbia to fight against neoliberalism.”
The article went on to explain that when a firm is privatized, “the buyer
of the state-owned factory does the following: through illegal means he first
puts the company in enormous debt to his own firms. Then he takes it out of
bankruptcy. This rids his company of all smaller shareholders and all
obligations towards the workers from the original collective bargaining
agreement with the privatized company.”
Meanwhile, the 300 Frape Behr workers are protesting a “labor force
adjustment plan” to eliminate their jobs, as well as the retaliatory
firing of six workers. Their slogan in Catalan is: “Guerra, guerra,
guerra, La Frape no cerra” (War, war, war, La Frape will not close).
Supporters are demonstrating outside the occupied plant.
Behr, based in Stuttgart, Germany, makes automobile air conditioning units. The
workers have received messages of solidarity from unionists in Germany, Norway
and Canada. They have asked for protest letters, faxes, and phone calls to be
sent to Behr company locations in the United States:
Behr Heat Transfer Systems, Inc.
4500 Leeds Avenue, Suite 201 Charleston, SC 29405-8521 Phone 843-745-1233 Fax
Behr Dayton Thermal Products
1600 Webster Street Dayton, OH 45404
Phone 937-224-2900 Fax 937-224-2915
Behr America, Inc. 2700 Daley Drive
Troy, MI 48084 Phone 248-743-3700
Behr Climate Systems, Inc.
5020 Augusta Drive
Fort Worth, TX 76106
The workers ask us to “please send copies of your protest letters, as
well as copies of distributed materials and pictures from solidarity actions,
to the IWA Secretariat, so that a comprehensive list of activities can be made
and forwarded to the comrades in struggle: email@example.com.”
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