Ceramics company set to move to Armenia bought out by staff

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The trademark of the new factory with its slogan “All for one, a dream for all” is their constant companion. Literally, because, as 37-year-old ceramics decorator Chiara Bastianelli proudly told us, “We’ve got it tattooed on our arms; it’s the symbol of our rebirth and of the jobs that no one can take away anymore”. A year ago those job prospects were far from rosy. The owners of Ceramisia, a factory in Citt di Castello, had called in the workers and administrative staff to announce their decision to relocate to Armenia (where they in fact subsequently opened a new company). “We were basically made redundant,” recalled Pierpaolo Dini, 52, married with three children, “and I began to think about my uncertain future: maybe I would go back to being a farmer. And then…”

Crucial meeting
And then Marco Brozzi, 44, another worker who loved his job and the factory, had an idea. During a meeting with his desperate co-workers, he made a proposal: “OK, everyone, instead of holding on to our unemployment benefit and severance pay, let’s invest that money in buying the company”. “Buying it?”. His colleagues looked each other in the eyes, some laughed, others grimaced in pain. “But deep down,” recalls Dini, “we believed in the idea, also because right then it was the only thing to do”. Consequently, negotiations began with the owners (the Polidori family, also known in Umbria for the political commitment of Catia, an MP with Forza Italia). The unions and the Coop supported the idea of the workers, who set up a cooperative and appointed Brozzi as chairman.

Fears and success
Some continued to have doubts. “At first I was scared,” admitted Chiara Bastianelli. “Then, back at home, I looked at my son and thought I owed it to him to show courage. Also because with the mortgage to pay and other expenses, without my salary my family would have real problems”. With their unemployment benefits (totalling around €180,000), the eleven workers set up “Ceramica Noi”, bought the machinery used by the previous owners, and rented the factory. They used the severance pay to cover the first months of salary and set out to win back the old customers, almost all of them foreign (90% in the United States and the rest in Latin America), as well as opening up new markets. They met with incredible success and started to make a profit. “I would say super profits,” continued Brozzi. “Officially we have been on the market since August and today we already have profits of €90,000 and growing. We are ready to sell our products in France, Germany and England, and are preparing to launch them in Eastern Europe. We have just hired three new employees.”

Never give up
And what’s life like at work? Was it better before or now? “We work more and there are lots of problems to deal with,” the eleven members replied in chorus, “but today we feel this is our factory; we love it, it’s part of us. We’re a family of workers-entrepreneurs”. Last Sunday they celebrated the rebirth with a party at the company which was also attended by the mayor of Citt di Castello, Luciano Bacchetta. He was full of admiration for them. “This is an extraordinary example of the will to succeed,” he commented. “These are people who never give up, who want to fight and win, who love their work and their local community. I’m proud of them.”

English translation by Simon Tanner

19 novembre 2019 (modifica il 19 novembre 2019 | 13:51)



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