At dawn, the electricity company, supported by the police, turned off the power to the occupied and self-managed VIO.ME factory in Thessaloniki.
One might think that soap factories are systemically relevant in the current corona crisis. In the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki people seem to disagree. At 6.30 this morning, the state electricity company DEI, with the support of two squads of the Greek riot police MAT, cut off the electricity to the self-administered cooperative factory VIO.ME. The workers immediately called for public support via social media.
VIO.ME (Viomichaniki Metalleftiki) was founded in 1982 as one of three subsidiaries of Filkeram AG, owned by the Filippou family. When the Filippou family filed for bankruptcy in May 2011, the 30 remaining VIO.ME workers occupied their factory and switched production to ecological cleaning agents in 2013. Without a boss, without a permanent employment relationship and without hierarchies. The self-organized team wants to set an example with this demonstrative continuation: Against capitalism and against dependence. All employees profit equally, and any tasks that arise are exchanged according to the principle of rotation.
VIO.ME became a symbol of self-organization, with the hand soap even being successfully distributed even outside Greece through solidarity networks. Official recognition as a social cooperative followed in 2016.
Since then it has become quiet around the project, but for the employees it is a deceptive calm. In the bankruptcy proceedings, the Filippou family and the bankruptcy trustee pursue the forced sale of Filkeram’s remaining assets. And the project is still considered an illegal occupation and fears continued repression by the Greek state.
The power supply is elementary for the functioning of soap production. Although the police have withdrawn again, the workers are now looking for several power generators. Makis Anagnostou, a member of the project and representative of the VIO.ME company union, told Beyondeurope.net: “This action by the state is no coincidence – in the midst of the Corona bans, it is trying to exploit the situation and create new facts. In the midst of the crisis, attacks on workers’ rights are increasing and this intervention at dawn is reminiscent of actions from the times of the military dictatorship”. In their declaration the workers underline Makis argument: “All this while we are in the process with the Ministry of Labor for the full legalization of self-managed factory of Vio.Me. And while they know that we produce personal and home hygiene products, which are of primary importance to society.”
Tip for our faithful readers: The best help to the cooperative of VIO.ME is to donate directly money on paypal and/or buy their products, for example through the following websites: VIO.ME online-shop (Greece) and union coop // föderation (Germany)