At 64, Alfredo Lupi, a factory janitor in Graffignana, an industrial town southeast of Milan, was less than three years from his retirement, a threshold both incredibly close but incredibly far.
A cognitive impairment from which he suffered almost from birth made his job more difficult every day. The condition was too debilitating for him to work without discomfort, but it would have been difficult to afford to quit smoking without a pension.
This is where his colleagues came in.
One evening earlier this month, after his shift ended, employees at the Senna Inox plant gathered to unveil a surprise for Mr. Lupi. He could retire early. In fact, he could retire now.
Puzzled at first, Mr. Lupi slowly understood. – You gave me my pension, he said, visibly moved. “Thank you.”
Technically, his colleagues gave him something else: vacation days. They had transferred part of their own allowance – some gave more days, others less, but all gave something. This allowed him to stop working, but meant he could stay on the books at the Senna Inox factory and earn a salary until he reached the retirement age of 67.
“Over the past few months he has been visibly tired and struggling to work,” said Piera, one of Mr Lupi’s colleagues, who declined to give his last name because she did not want to. advertising for itself. âIt was a collective effort. We all thought it wasn’t fair that if he quits he has to stay home without pay for two years.
The practice of giving personal vacation days to colleagues in need is increasingly popular in Italy. In recent years, the story of a mother who was given the equivalent of three years to care for her disabled son, as well as tales of leave granted to hospital workers with young children and who have no time to spend with them, made headlines in Italy.
But Mr Lupi’s case was unusual as his 50 colleagues all mobilized, collecting 20 months of working days. âWe wasted a bit of our free time, yeah,â Piera said. “But it was more important.”
Yet despite all their generosity, the employees had not accumulated enough time, but Senna Inox completed it by agreeing to pay him for the remaining year he would need to reach retirement age.
âMaybe you see it as a big gift, but we see it as an investment in solidarity,â said Pietro Senna, one of the four brothers who run the factory founded by their grandfather in 1950. âWe don’t care. deprive of nothing, rather the reverse. “
Mr Senna said the vast majority of their employees at the plant, which designs and manufactures equipment for the pharmaceutical and food industry, work there throughout their careers.
“We love each other” and see the work as a mission, he said. “I’m not going anywhere without them, and we’re there when they need us.”
Mr. Lupi has always been a fixture in Graffignana, which has a population of around 2,600 and where NBA star Danilo Gallinari grew up.
Mr. Lupi normally participated in the city’s social activities, playing the shepherd in the annual December 13 celebrations for Saint Lucia – the bearer of light in the winter darkness and a particularly beloved saint of northern Italy – that a local parish organizes for children. Afterwards, Mr. Lupi would bring sweets to his colleagues at the factory.
“We are less than 2,600 people here, so solidarity is natural,” said Margherita Muzzi, the mayor of Graffignana.
Alessandro Lupi, 51, brother of Alfredo and colleague of Senna Inox, where he is technical manager, said he was a little puzzled when his colleagues told him about their plan.
“I was worried that retirement was not good for him,” he said. “He needs to have people around him and maybe being home with our mom would isolate him over time.”
But Mr. Senna reassured him that Alfredo could come and visit him whenever he wanted.
âHe said the doors here are wide open for Alfredo,â Mr. Lupi said. âAnd their hearts too. “