Banco União

Most Votorantim employees today know the story behind the start of our company – the jargon is almost a cliché:

“Votorantim’s story begins when Antonio Pereira Ignacio takes the bankruptcy of Banco União, and, among other things, there was a fabric factory called Fábrica de Tecidos Votorantim”.

Have you ever stopped to think that before Sociedade Anônima Fábrica Votorantim was founded in 1918 by Antonio Pereira Ignacio, there is a whole story behind this “bankruptcy of Banco União” and its subsequent sale to the Portuguese? And did you know that the workers at the Fabrics Factory played an important role in this story?

To understand all this, we need to understand the scenario that the Fabrics Factory was inserted before the purchase by Pereira Ignácio: The Factory belonged to Banco União and was in crisis, its workers were on strike, as they were looking for better working conditions at that time. complicated year 1917. The economic crisis caused by the effects of the First World War on the economy was reflected in the price of the country’s main export product, coffee. The crisis affected all Brazilian institutions – but the financial ones, mainly the banks, which had as support the success of the coffee enterprise – were going from bad to worse. And it was in this scenario of strike, economic crisis, reflections of the war in the economy that Banco União went bankrupt and with it all its business – including the Fabrics Factory.

The general strike extends throughout the state of São Paulo.


It is in this scenario of crisis, strike and challenges that Antonio Pereira Ignacio buys the bankrupt estate of Banco União, on January 9, 1918. The main challenge now was how to deal with that strike that had lasted for many months. Votorantim workers were the gears that moved the Fabrics Factory. There were almost 2000 employees, with more than 1300 looms and 25,000 spindles at full throttle, which made that factory one of the largest in the country. In the first months of his administration, it was essential to sit down with workers still on strike since the old management of the Factory and reach an agreement. Ignacio believed in the future of the factory and needed, together with the workers, to put that machine to work.
Votorantim, now under the command of Pereira Ignacio, came to terms with its employees. These terms would reflect the future of the venture, since, after the agreement, Votorantim changes from a bankrupt company to one of the largest fabric producers in Brazil. The performance of the workers, combined with an almost total modernization of the machinery at the Fabrics Factory, and Pereira Ignacio’s unique management, after the end of the strike, places Votorantim on a level never before achieved by a textile company at that time. The success of the textile firm allowed Votorantim to make strides in the 1920s, being the mainstay for the difficult years ahead.

Below, the terms of the 1919 agreement – see that we have resolutions that would become law only 24 years later, with the Consolidation of Labor Laws.

– Equal pay between men and women of the same function.

– 30% increase in workers’ wages.

– Additional 20% for overtime.

– Prohibition of child labor at the Votorantim factory.

Future Relations

This story tells us how the company’s management has gone hand in hand with its employees since the beginning of our trajectory. Since 1918 Votorantim has sought to bring about changes in the places where it operates, changing the lives of employees and society and, in parallel, also being transformed. From the modernization of Vila Operária in the 1920s, to the opening of cinemas, schools, daycare centers and hospitals in the 1940s and subsequent years, in Sorocaba and other regions, Votorantim’s concern for its employees and the commitment they have with this legacy is a two-way street.

Here are some examples of this lasting relationship (the original spellings will be kept):

1923 board report shows the modernizations carried out in Votorantim’s Operator Villages.

Villa Operaria – In the construction of the houses of our villa and destined to the residence of our workers, we have adopted a modern and uniform style, both for the areas and for the underprivileged, obedient to the most rigorous hygienic precautions, required in the works of this nature . These general improvements follow, not only a strict aesthetic plan, but immediate and direct benefits to our workers, providing amenities, comforts and healthiness to their existence. The number of working houses, which in the balance of 1922 was 624, is now increased to 719 ”

In 1953 the company’s annual report highlights the concern with workers in the face of the tuberculosis outbreak that hit the country at the time.

SOCIAL ASSISTANCE – An important sector of our performance was that related to the social part, whose amount reached a considerable sum. We maintain our own hospital and, in order to fight tuberculosis and other diseases, we maintain our own beds in sanatoriums located in the different climatic zones of this state, thus giving adequate treatment to our workers ”

1958 report shows the opening of the children’s school “Helena Pereira de Moraes” in Votorantim, considered the largest children’s school in the state of São Paulo at the time:

SOCIAL ASSISTANCE – We continue to provide those who care about us, as well as their families, with dignified hospital assistance, having opened in Votorantim, which, without false modesty, we can proclaim as the best playground in the State of São Paulo”

In 1960, the board highlights the work with the distribution of scholarships:

SOCIAL ASSISTANCE – We have spared no effort in developing a system that brings advantages in improving the well-being, education and health of everyone who works with us. The number of scholarships we are awarding is over 200 and we will continue to provide opportunities for everyone who, linked to our industry, wants to improve their skills ”

These are some examples of this relationship that lasts more than 100 years. Check out other stories of these and other working relationships at the link.