In the shadow of Vesuvius, a new workers buyout has been established. It’s called ScreenSud and is a cooperative set up by 12 former employees of Lafer, a company that produces and exports steel mesh worldwide. Believing in their mission, CFI -Cooperation Finance Enterprise, Coopfond and Fondosviluppo - mutual funds of Legacoop and Confcooperative financed them helping to recover the factory that had gone bankrupt. Today, on their identity card, there is written “cooperative entrepreneur.” But as in any story regarding a redemption, everything starts from the end, the closure of the plant and the drama of job loss for the employees.
Raffaele is about to become a father for the second time. But what weighs on him most is not telling his colleagues the truth. He is the only one who knows that the lives of forty workers are going to be devastated. For a week, he must keep it secret. He knows that Saverio is getting married, Nicola has worked there since he was eighteen years old, they all have families and they love their job. Yet, he has to look into their eyes and find the words to tell them. But there’s no right way to tell them that from one day to the next they will all lose their jobs.
In the winter of 2013, the Lafer company, a leading manufacturer of high strength steel mesh wiring, located in Nola was put into liquidation by the owners. Only six years earlier this company had had a turnover of €7 million, 60% from exports, with 50 employees. The only two competitors had been in Piedmont. However, a steady decline until 2012, when revenues were reduced by two-thirds brought about a sudden darkness and despair. But there were those who chose not to give up and decided to try the option of a workers buyout. They were the workers of the company.
Three years later, the noise of machinery is still strong. The production of steel mesh, mainly used in the mining industry, re-started. The headquarters have changed - it is now in Acerra. But here you can still find 12 of the 40 original workers who struggle with greasy hands to succeed in their efforts.
From the ruins of Lafer, the ScreenSud cooperative has been created, thanks to a workers buyout funded by CFI / Finance Cooperation Company and the mutual funds Coopfond and Fondosviluppo, which for the first time worked together to fund a workers buyout.
Three years later, the noise of machinery is still strong. The production of steel mesh, mainly used in the mining industry, re-started. The headquarters have changed - it is now in Acerra. But here you can still find 12 of the 40 original workers who struggle with greasy hands to succeed in their efforts. From the ruins of Lafer, the ScreenSud cooperative has been created, thanks to a workers buyout funded by CFI / Finance Cooperation Company and the mutual funds Coopfond and Fondosviluppo, which for the first time worked together to fund a workers buyout.
In the years of inactivity, some of the former employees of Lafer decided to organize themselves and decided to take over the bankrupt company to avoid losing their jobs. The first obstacle was presented when the Court of Naples declared the company had failed, interrupting the agreement. “Thanks to the pre-emption right which is granted to cooperatives of former employees, however, we have defeated the other companies that wanted to participate in the auction. And so in 2015 we managed to purchase machinery and to move into this building, “says Raffaele, now chairman of the board of the cooperative. “We did not want to choose the easy way, abandoning Campania to seek work away from our loved ones. We are stubborn, “ he says and this is ‘why besides the name “Screen”, Alexander, who is in charge of trade relations with foreign countries, proposed to add the term “South” – being proud of being southern Italians. We want to go back to being the largest producers and exporters of steel mesh in the world.
On March 1, 2016 the factory re-started its production. Renewing contacts after three years with customers is not easy, but the clients in Morocco, the Netherlands and France, have already responded positively. The president recounts , “Of course, we do not sleep any more at night, because our responsibilities have tripled compared to those of ordinary workers. “
The pride in having not given in to resigning to their fate and having become cooperative entrepreneurs is also reflected in the words of Nicola, 31 years and with 13 of them spent working in the company. “Your first job is never forgotten, just like your first love”, he remembers, thinking of his girlfriend and their serious relationship.
“I have already had my first birthday as a cooperative entrepreneur, then we will organize a marriage” he says, smiling, in a red shirt emblazoned with Che Guevara’s face and with a rosary hanging around his neck. He adds, “Even on my new renewed identity card, I now have written member entrepreneur”. For the future, he hopes “that in a year or two we can leave here, we can become bigger, and we can give work to our former colleagues who unfortunately have not decided to be a member of the cooperative”.
The sorrow of not being able to include other former employees is so heavy. Along with Raffaele, Agostino, workshop superviser, had to choose 12 people out of 40 to start over again. “ Also our former boss, when he was aware of the situation of the company , had thought of establishing a cooperative to save the company for the workers, he says, recalling the years when INPS was providing no salaries. “In our family we have all had to tighten our belts”, he says, “and we have had to adapt. For about seven months I had no salary. Now my children are happy if Dad works, assuring an income to take home”.
A great fortune for these cooperators was to have an employer that had made them highly autonomous. For this reason, to re- start with this production was easier. Alessandro, once in charge of the administrative sector but also relations with foreign countries and now performs both jobs, also confirmed this. One of the most courageous decisions, perhaps, was his, since he had other opportunities in other enterprises due to his portfolio of relations with customers built up over time but he decided to join the cooperative. And recently, he had good news from Morocco and France, and in the end orders began arriving. Saverio also had no doubts about joining the cooperative, “I had a wedding planned and when my future wife learned of the company closing down, she no longer wanted to marry me. But then, thanks to funding from CFI, she decided to believe in the cooperative and she said yes, and now we are going to get married “.
In saying goodbye to us, all together, they join hands and declare, “One for all, all for Screensud”