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Workers at Viomihaniki Metalleytiki (a facility making parts for the mining industry) in Thessaloniki, Greece, have taken matters into their own hands as their bosses fail them (yet again).

The managing body of Viomihaniki Metalleytiki (VM), a subsidiary of Philkeram Johnson S.A. (what used to be the first and largest ceramic tiles producer in Greece) effectively abandoned the running of the factory - and all its workers - in May 2011. Payments for work clocked up just stopped altogether. As a result, from September 2011, employees exercised their right to abstain from work if an employer delays their payment. However in a sterling example of self-management, initiative taking and a two finger salute to the 'man', the workers union at VM organised 40 of the 70 newly-workless workers to take it in shifts to ensure that no equipment was removed or stolen. This decision was reached through General Assemblies and a consensus process (lovely jubbly).

Thus it has been that more than a year since the factory officially closed down. At the start of summer the administration announced the factory would not reopen due to lack of funds. Cranking up the DIY dial, in July, the workers union proposed that the factory should be taken over and go under workers control (a proposal which received the support and acquiescence of 98% of the Assembly). They demanded the resignation of all members who were previously part of the management and declared their intention to introduce legal co-operative enterprises.

And the metalworkers have not been the only ones, er, forging a new style of workplace. Other examples have included the resuscitation of the Greek hospital seized by health-workers in the city of Kilikis and a self-organised restaurant cooked up by staff in Thessaloniki.

Yes, although not originally on the menu, since June 7th, Barthelonika – Thessaloniki's coolest eatery - is being run by its workers. The story began when the owner announced to the workers that the restaurant would be shut for two months over the summer holidays and he would then decide its final destiny in September. The workers responded by pointing out that the business was making a profit, providing food to thems that wanted it and, er, there was no reason therefore to shut up shop. So the workers and boss made an informal agreement that the staff would take over the general running of the restaurant for two months and prove they can make it work – saving them from having to join the ever-swelling numbers of the unemployed just yet. And who'd ever have thunk it but guess what - the anarcho-restaurant has been going just fine. A member of staff said it was “working normally without bosses, managers and hierarchical relationships. We all decide together about everything, we find suppliers and look after the place. In this climate of crisis, if we accept the decisions of the bosses without reaction we will be straight to abjection.” Right on. As soon as they took over service, the workers placed a 30% reduction on all the items on the menu and sent out an invitation to the populace of Thessaloniki to aid this project. As a collective they also supported and catered for an anti-racist festival that happened in the city on their second day open. Through general assembly the staff have decided that whatever profit remains will be evenly distributed amongst the staff, who all work the same hours at the positions they had before.

In a time of hopelessness and deprivation, with increasing levels of poverty spreading across Greece, where the fascist 'Golden Dawn' festers and preys on the fearful, at least there is a glimmer of hope - through unity in local communities, grass-roots movements and DIY tactics.

Translation: You can't? We Can! Poster by the Workers' Union of Viomihaniki Metalleytiki announcing their plan for the factory's self-management
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