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Ausolan, the Basque company founded in 1969 by 17 rebellious wives who wanted to continue working

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Women have had to fight for many years to achieve rights as basic as that of work. Until the 70s of the last century, in Spain, there were many that were seen forced to leave their posts once they were married or they had to ask their husbands for permission to work. But there have always been some rebels who have not been satisfied with what is established.

In 1969, and faced with the impossibility of being hired after going through the altar, 17 women decided to join and create their own company. Thus was born Ausolagun, a cooperative based in Mondragón (Guipúzcoa), dedicated to cleaning and catering services.

What started as a small business so that these women could continue in the world of work and maintain their economic independence has evolved into the Ausolan Group. With more than 50 years of history, the group invoices 230 million euros per year, has more than 13,000 professionals and provides its services throughout Spain, southern France and Chile.

The laws that in Spain prevented women from working once married changed over the years. For example, according to the documents of the University of Barcelona, Article 4 of the “mitigating measures” of the Decree Law of 12/31/1938 prohibited the work of married women “from a certain income of the husband.”

Later, in the National Labor Regulations of 12-27-1939 it was directly stipulated that “the woman must stop working when she gets married.” Finally, the Labor Regulations of 1942 also indicated that “When a woman gets married, she leaves her post and in return receives a nuptial dowry”.

The latter was the one that was still applied in the 1960s, despite the fact that it was already an outdated norm. “In the year 69 it was already an inertia. The Franco rule was previous, what happens is that in the end the culture was still operating at that time. That is why when they got married the company paid them a settlement for the years worked being single. Later, as a result of this women’s movement, companies stopped acting like this, “explains María López, president of the Ausolan Foundation.

“What these 17 women said is: ‘We don’t want to leave our jobs, we are still valid.’ priest José María Arizmendiarreta, who was a bit the precursor of cooperativism in Mondragón, helped them to found their own company. Then they began to work in the restaurant part in dining rooms, feeding the institutions and companies in the area, and cleaning. ”

Ausolan workers.


Contraction of men and single women

Despite the success achieved by the founders and all the companions who subsequently joined, these women had to face reluctance, and more than once discussions, of their husbands and people from the town who did not see with good eyes that they did not dedicate 100% of their time to their family.

In order to reconcile work and household chores, a situation many working mothers still face, they all worked part-time. What’s more, in 1972 they achieved another milestone: created the first daycare center of Spain to facilitate the care of children during the working day.

“The nursery had a concept a little different from the one we have now, and it also had a doctor, it was like a childcare area. It is still working and has entered the area’s education network,” says López.

A decade after its founding, in 1979, Ausolan experienced another change: hired the first man. “Based on the bylaws of the cooperative, which is the regulatory framework that operates in the company, there was positive discrimination against women, they could only hire women who were married. As the business grew, they came to buy a production plant and They saw that they needed a maintenance person. There was no female available at the time due to training, so they had to hire the first man. “

“At that time they also realized that from the year 69 to 79 the social context had changed, women had managed to be hired despite being married and had obtained social benefits. So they decided to remove that part of positive discrimination to hire single men and women, and equality began to normalize. “

The Ausolan Foundation

In this more than half a century of history, Ausolan has allocated each year the 10% of your profits for social purposes and now he is working on the formation of his Foundation to “order” those actions and have a concrete plan to follow.

“Over the years we have been transferring funds irregularly, not always to a specific project or association. A year and a half ago we began to think about how to organize it so that the 10% that we dedicate to society has greater impact and also focus it on our sector, catering and cleaning. ”

The Group has led the Foundation to Maria Lopez, a food technologist with more than 20 years of experience in the company and has also been in charge of various innovation projects; already Amaia Agirre, commercial director of the cleaning division and who will act as manager.

Ausolan still retains that spirit of fighting for equality and more than 95% of its workers They are women, who occupy all kinds of positions from the lowest to management positions. For this reason, among the objectives of the Foundation stands out the Opportunities Project, designed to train women so that they are on “equal conditions” and can access positions generally held by men.

“As our social director says, our company is the example that in society there is inequality. The woman is the one who mainly occupies jobs that are or fewer hours a day, with part-time hours, always as if they were a complement to the main salary of the house, and linked to the underground economy. That is where we want to influence, for women to be trained to be able to access a decent job, outside of that underground economy, “explains Amaia Agirre.

Beyond managerial positions, which for Maria “is where there is more inequality and we have more work to do at the social level”, the Opportunities Project will address positions at different levels “to get to the labor market in the conditions that this woman wants and need “.

“For example, maintenance personnel for a production plant, transporters, forklifts … They are equally more basic positions in which there are traditionally more men and it seems that by default they are more suitable for it,” says Amaia.

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