The origins of the award

In the immediate post-second world war period some Italian Chambers of Commerce attempted to revive the tradition of the award for long and praiseworthy service for clerks, workers and land agents launched in 1929 by the Provincial Economic Councils, as the Chambers were named under the Fascist regime.

The councils intended to use this scheme to reward long-serving employees for their devotion to their company and so ratify the principle of cooperation between social classes characteristic of Fascist corporatism.

Although the central administration assigned other awards to employees (for example: Star of Merit for Labour inaugurated by royal decree no. 3167 on 30 December 1923), the Councils invited companies to submit their own nominations as a formal recognition of their workers’ qualities and to encourage emulation.

After the official announcement of the project and the publication of regulations, the Chamber sought the involvement of employers’ associations, trade unions, town councils and, in some cases, parish priests who provided character and professional references if required.

In 1936 the Ministry of Corporations opposed the award because of its coexistence with the Star of Merit for Labour gold medal and consequently many Chambers abandoned it. The Varese Chamber was able to preserve it by replacing the medal with a sum of money. For this reason the scheme continued until 1942 when it was suspended due to the war.

The reintroduction of the award in the immediate post-war period and its extension to entrepreneurs

When peace was restored, many Chambers, including Varese in 1946, occasionally set up schemes to revive the tradition of the award. The circular no. 581/C issued by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in 1952 encouraged the institution of an award for long-serving employees, long-established businesses and the companies, businessmen and inventors responsible for the most important social, technical and industrial innovations.

In Varese too, the first edition of the Award for Labour and Economic Progress (also known as Award for loyalty to work and economic progress) concerned the years 1952-53. Many companies submitted brief historical profiles, family trees and historical documents to prove the continuity of their work and support their candidacy.

The first awards presentation in January 1954 was given wide coverage by “La Provincia di Varese”, the Chamber newspaper. The photographs depicted the festive atmosphere in which the businessmen and their representatives accompanied their employees to receive a gold medal and certificate from the President of the Chamber and the local authorities.

The adjustment of the award to economic changes

In the subsequent decades the conditions for the award were modified to account for economic and social changes at a national and local level. In the first place the idea of loyalty to a single company was replaced by continuous employment in several firms in acknowledgement of new labour realities distinguished by greater mobility between businesses.

The extension of the award to company directors bears witness to a greater complexity within the enterprise and the diversification of ownership and management. The benchmarks of longevity were altered in the course of time (40 years for industrial, commercial and agricultural concerns and 35 years for the craft industry), showing that although the average age of the business population had decreased, the craft sector had been reinforced. The value of a company’s productivity was associated with the concept of a welfare organisation for its employees and the quality of human relations it established. Nevertheless the award remained centred on the individual recognition of the entrepreneur and his family.