Factory Occupation at Invepal

Issue section: 

'In this factory there are no bosses. We believe that we should all be leaders.'

Invepal is a paper factory about 100 miles outside Caracas. Workers there have taken over the factory and forced the state to finance its day to day development. It is currently in co-management, whereby the workers own 49 percent of the company and the state 51 percent. Not content with this, the workers have declared that they want to reach 100 percent worker ownership. I spoke to two Invepal workers - Alexis Pereira, who is an electrician, and Alexis Polanco, who works in the chemical sector of the factory:

'In 2000 some of us formed a new union, and we won the elections as reps in the factory. When Chavez stood for president the bosses threatened that if he won they would close the factory - and in 2001 the company did close down. We went to the minister for labour and forced an agreement with the company so that we could keep the factory running.

'However, the problems continued, and in September 2004 they declared bankruptcy. Immediately we set up blockades at the entrances, and no one was allowed in or out. For 18 months we struggled to keep the factory open and even organised marches in Caracas. We demanded that the government restart the company, and workers from PDVSA (the state-owned oil company) and many others showed us huge solidarity.

'Then on 2 December 2004 an assembly of the workers took the decision to form the co-operative Venepal and to start production again. The government issued a decree that stated a company that served the public interest could be appropriated by the workers.

'Now the factory is a workers' collective, and our wages are basically equal. The profits are divided 49 percent to the workers and 51 percent to the state. And there are no bosses! In the factory there are 20 departments, and each has formed a committee which elects a coordinator. Each coordinator is elected for one year - later they can be removed. We believe we should rotate positions and everyone should participate in production - we should all be leaders.

In the future, we want more companies to make decisions through workers' assemblies. And we believe this is not just an experience for our country, but for all workers who are in struggle.'