After a month devoted to racing – in cars and on motorcycles and bicycles – the “History and Stories from the World of Pirelli” section starts a new tale: that of company welfare. This is a story that dates back at least a hundred and forty years, for the Historical Archive of the Group, which is kept at the Pirelli Foundation, contains a cutting from La Lega Lombarda newspaper, dated 8-9 May 1894, with an article entitled “The Pirelli & C. Factory”. This recalls that “as far back as 1877, the factory had its own Mutual Assistance Fund for sick workers. It was financed by fines and by the smallest deductions – between 10 and 15 cents a fortnight – from workers’ pay.” In the unique, priceless collection of documents that constitutes the History of Pirelli Industries collection, the newspaper bears witness to the first experiments in company welfare, and its entry number is 331. But one need only go through a few more entries and – at no. 531, dated 29 September 1901 – we find another milestone in the history of Pirelli welfare: a little picture postcard that the Società Anonima di Consumo, set up among the staff of the Pirelli & C. factory in Milan, sent to the manager Giovanni Battista upon the completion of his first year of work. Immediately after, at no. 553 of 3 May 1902, comes a little book entitled “Agreement between the Company and the Workers’ Commission for the Improvement of Treatment, and Miscellaneous Provisions”: by this time, the focus on the welfare of its employees had become an authentic feature of the company. And indeed, it guaranteed a “sustainable” future, as we would say today.
Firmly rooted in the social fabric of the areas where it works, both in Italy and abroad, the Pirelli Group has worked and still works in a variety of welfare sectors, ranging from health to leisure activities, and from training to support for maternity and the family, through to nutrition and culture.
In the next “Stories from the World of Pirelli”, we shall look at some of the countless different ways in which the unique, global concept of company welfare has affected the history of Pirelli for almost a hundred and fifty years. The Group’s vast archives contain plenty of stories about pensioners finding a home and care at the retirement home in Induno Olona, near Varese, along with pictures of the canteens and factory shops for the workers. And then there are news items about the factory healthcare centre, as well as initiatives for the young and for women.
Children in the 1950s would look out of the windows of the Bicocca degli Arcimboldi, because that is where they had their nursery school, or they would diligently follow their lessons at the after-school centre. Children would be able to get over the terrors of war at holiday camps at the seaside or in the mountains, in Pietrasanta or in the Bergamo valleys. They would go to see “where daddy works”, with open days in Italy as well as in Brazil and Argentina. And, of course, they would celebrate Christmas, smiling from the covers of the house organs across the entire Pirelli universe. There are grainy pictures turning green of girls way back in 1923, taking part in – and winning – the sports meeting on the playing fields at Bicocca, while on the same grounds a not-yet-twenty-year-old Adolfo Consolini trained in the late 1930s to become a future Olympic champion. There are young mothers in the 1970s who reveal to the Fatti e Notizie house organ their hopes and needs in the difficult task of reconciling family and work. There are countless young people going to the company libraries and showing up at meetings with the author – authors of the calibre of Montale and Quasimodo – and watching shows by the I Rabdomanti group at the theatre specially built by the company in Viale Sarca, just opposite the factory. Young people can be seen crossing the Viale Fulvio Testi to go and learn a trade at the Istituto Pieri Pirelli, the internal school that remained open until 1958.
Stories and faces of entire generations of “Pirelliani”, of those who, together with the company, went through the huge changes that swept through society, helping create a model welfare system that is unlike any other. Just as they still do today.