Housing

Solidarity Economy in Brazil

Sugar Workers' Coop Supports 4,300 Families at 48 Mills

By Mario Osava

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 11 (IPS) - The Harmony Agricultural Company has become Brazil's largest worker-managed business in the solidarity economy. It provides employment for 4,300 families who work 26,000 hectares of land, and its main activity is producing sugar at 48 mills.

When the company was in crisis in 1993, the first reaction of the workers and their unions was the usual one of trying to ensure that the 2,300 workers who were dismissed received back pay and severance pay. But two years later, the unions took another approach.

Their goal was to win back the lost jobs and maintain the remaining ones, while continuing an activity essential to the economy of Catende, in the northeastern state of Pernambuco.

They applied for the owners of the company to be forced to declare bankruptcy, and took over the firm's administration, under the supervision of the justice system. Since then, they have resumed sugar production and diversified into other agricultural and industrial activities.