Viome

An occupied chemical plant in Greece, making products in response to local needs, organised by workers

Photo by Liam Barrington-Bush, CC BY-NC-SA

An occupied chemical plant in Greece, making products in response to local needs, organised by workers.

In 2011, following the collapse of the Greek construction industry, the Viome plant in Thessaloniki, Greece, was abandoned by its parent company Philkeram-Johnson. At the time, Viome manufactured chemicals for the building industry.

Following the closure of the plant, and facing poor prospects in the Greek job market, a group of workers decided to occupy the plant, so they could carry on working, even in the absence of their employer. 

They now maintain a precarious occupation in the face of economic pressures and continuous legal battles with the Greek authorities and the plant owners.

How is it redistributive?

Responding to local needs: of workers, and residents

While precarious, Viome demonstrates how a local factory can – if it chooses, and organisation of which it’s a part allows – be responsive to local needs. From a July 2017 article by Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian:

When the workers consulted the local community about what they should start to produce, one request was to stop making building chemicals. They now largely manufacture soap and eco-friendly household detergents: cleaner, greener and easier on their neighbours’ noses.

Questions / Barriers

Viome emerged from extreme circumstances, and has survived thanks to pragmatic decisions about what to manufacture (“The products had to be cheap to make, using existing machinery and raw materials that were simple to source.”1), support from local and international communities, and workers subsidising their own wages with income from ther sources.

We ask:

  • What can other co-operative organisations learn from Viome in developing locally responsive manufacturing?
  • Can models for worker-led, locally connected factories be developed in more stable economic conditions, or can these kinds of phenomena only emerge from crisis, and survive as temporary autonomous zones?

HOW TO EXHIBIT

  • Factory products: these are not widely available, but distributers are listed on the Viome website. In the UK, soap is available from Roots of Compassion
  • Video about the occupation: this is available on GlobalUprisings.org or to download from Vimeo.

Further Reading

  • Viome website
  • How could we cope if capitalism failed? Ask 26 Greek factory workers
    Aditya Chakrabortty, The Guardian, July 2017
  • May Day: workers of the world unite and take over – their factories
    Jon Henley, The Guardian, May 2015
  • Is Getting Rid of Your Boss the Future of Work?
    Liam Barrington-Bush, Vice, November 2016
  • Video from Globaluprisings.org

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/01/may-day-workers-of-the-world-unite-and-take-over-their-factories