At 64, Alfredo Lupi, a janitor at a factory in Graffignana, an industrial town southeast of Milan, was less than three years from retirement, a threshold that was both incredibly close but incredibly distant.
A cognitive impairment he had almost since birth made his job more difficult day by day. The condition was too debilitating for him to work without discomfort, but it would have been hard to afford to quit without a pension.
This is where his colleagues came in.
One evening earlier this month, after the end of his shift, the employees of the Senna Inox factory gathered to reveal a surprise to Lupi. He could retire earlier. In fact, he could retire now.
Perplexed at first, Lupi gradually understood. “You gave me my pension,” he said, visibly moved. “Thank you.”
Technically, his colleagues gave him something else: vacation days. They had transferred some of their own batch—some gave more days, some less, but all gave something. This allowed him to stop working but meant he could stay on the books of the Senna Inox factory and collect a salary until he reached the retirement age of 67.
“For the past few months he has been visibly tired and struggling to work,” said Piera, one of Lupi’s colleagues, who declined to give her last name because she didn’t want publicity for herself. same. “It was a team effort. We all felt it wasn’t fair that if he quit he would have 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 the stories of leaves given to hospital workers who have young children and no time to devote to them, made headlines in Italy.
But Lupi’s case was unusual because all 50 of his colleagues pitched in, reaping the equivalent of 20 months of workdays. “We gave up some of our free time, yes,” Piera said. “But it was more important.”
Yet for all their generosity, the employees hadn’t accrued enough time, but Senna Inox topped things off by agreeing to pay him for the remaining year he would need to reach retirement age.
“You might see it as a big gift, but we see it as a solidarity investment,” said Pietro Senna, one of four brothers who run the factory founded by their grandfather in 1950. You’re welcome ; rather the opposite.”
Senna said the vast majority of employees at the plant, which designs and produces equipment for the pharmaceutical and food industries, work there their entire careers.
“We love each other” and see the job as a mission, he said. “I’m not going anywhere without them, and we’re there when they need us.”
Lupi has always been a fixture in Graffignana, which has a population of around 2,600 and where NBA star Danilo Gallinari grew up.
Lupi normally took part in the town’s social activities, playing shepherd during the annual December 13 celebrations for Saint Lucia – the bringer of light in the winter darkness and a particularly beloved saint in northern Italy – that a parish local organizes for children. Afterwards, Lupi brought sweets to his colleagues in 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 Lupi and colleague at Senna Inox, where he is technical manager, said he was a little bewildered when his colleagues told him of their plan.
“I was worried that his retirement would benefit him,” he said. “He needs to have people around him, and maybe being home with our mom would isolate him over time.”
But Senna reassured him that his brother could come and visit him whenever he wanted.
“He said the doors here were wide open for Alfredo,” said Alessandro Lupi. “And their hearts too.