TEB, between industrial production and creativity

Today I would like to introduce you a Spanish social cooperative which takes place in Barcelona. TEB Cooperative Group was set up in 1974 by some families of intellectually disabled people who claimed for the rights of people with intellectual disability. This was a pioneer initiative in Spain by that time, over the last years of the Franco dictatorship.

Even though their first idea was to provide the means for intellectually disabled people to get into the labour market, they were gradually creating own workplaces for them. Over the years, the group has built up several non profit work centres, occupational therapy workshops, job placement services, etc. in Barcelona and its surroundings. In 2008 there were 650 workers in TEB Cooperative Group; today around 800. From those, around 600 people have intellectual disabilities.

Today, there are 45,000 people with intellectual disability in Catalonia (where 7 million people live) of whom 32,000 take part of entities for the protection of their rights, partly organized thanks to social cooperatives. Francesc Martínez Foix is nowadays the General Director of TEB Cooperative Group, with whom I could have a chat on a sunny winter morning. He assured that they had a lot of success regarding to labour inclusion. There has always been a very low public investment, though, and now they have even less public subsidies, but Francesc Martinez doesn’t complain: “We want to live thanks to the work we do”.

Despite the fact that TEB suffered economically as a result of the economic crisis, Francesc Martínez is aware that they cannot fire any worker. “First of all for the families, who already put their trust in us for a long time and that, otherwise, would have to carry with all the weight.” He assured that for the families is not easy at all to decide if it is a good option for their sons or daughters to start working or better staying at home instead, receiving anyway a public subside which is very close to the salary they would perceive when working.

Francesc Martinez is also aware of the problems that they have to face nowadays: “We live in a very competitive world.” Today there is an extra problem: factory workforce, which until now could perfectly be done by intellectually disabled people, is now moving to other countries with lower labour costs. “We have to reinvent ourselves everyday”, he declared.

One of the most successful projects they have carried out is called TEBVistthe first online TV channel in Catalonia made by people with intellectual disabilities. Around 30 people work to show a different way to see the world; just another point of view.

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