Milan Expo suffers first strike

20 Belgian restaurant workers walk out

Around 20 of the 30 workers in the restaurant section of Expo 2015’s Belgium pavilion have walked out and returned home, leaving Michelin-starred chef Benoît Gersdorff to try to run the operation with one-third staff.

According to an article in Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, the workers – interviewed by Belgian media on their return – said they had not been paid for the two weeks of work preceding the official launch of Expo. And worse, they discovered that their monthly €1,200 paycheck was gross, not net, as they said they had been assured, leaving them to pay income tax and social security contributions out of their own pocket.

The daily reports that tempers had been frayed “for days” over the unsatisfactory organisation. For example, they claimed, nobody had thought to bring the Belgian specialities from the warehouse in time for the opening party, and they had been obliged to serve Italian food instead.

But things came to a head on 15 May when the salary situation came to light. The workers walked out and returned home, leaving deputy pavilion director Marie Noëlle Higny no choice but to try to find substitute staff.

A young Italian reader also wrote to the daily, complaining that instead of a training position in the restaurant as promised, he had been given cleaning work at the Belgian pavilion for two days and then sent away without pay.

Il Fatto adds that foreign ministry official and commissar general Antonio Pasquino is drawing up a list of the delegations who do not respect Italian labour law, a list he intends to publish by the end of May.