On Nov. 15, the regional government of Veneto held the “estates general” of the local eyewear sector in the industrial cluster of Longarone, in the Belluno province of Italy, to discuss the challenges the sector is facing. The meeting was well attended, with the presence the heads of Safilo, Thélios, Kering Eyewear and Marcolin. However, EssilorLuxottica was absent, after the group recently decided to quit the Italian eyewear industry employers association, Anfao.

In Italy, 17,000 people work in the eyewear industry, 12,000 of them in the Belluno province. The estates general was called by Elena Donazzan, the member of regional council in change of labor matters in Veneto's government, but the initiative follows a spat between Safilo's chief executive, Angelo Trocchia, and the management of Thélios on rehiring Safilo staff.

With the loss at the end of next year of the Dior license, Safilo is expected to significantly downsize its workforce in Longarone. Trocchia proposed a collective solution to address employment issues in the industry, noting that the production of Dior eyewear is not leaving Longarone but is only moving across the street from Safilo's factory to Thélios' new facility.

Thélios is expanding its original factory from some 8,000 square meters to about 20,000 square meters to increase production capacity from 1.5 million pairs a year to 4.5 million. During the estates general, Thélios' chief executive, Giovanni Zoppas, reiterated that his company plans to focus essentially on employing young people. Trocchia answered that “competence is competence” and urged not to put an age limit on hirings to avoid the sector losing valuable craftsmen.

Industry leaders generally complained about the difficulties of attracting certain professional skills to the cluster. Kering Eyewear's chief operating officer, Roberto Risi, said that the issue is not limited to the remote and mountainous Belluno region, noting that his company, which is located in Padua, finds it hard to appeal to skilled staff, especially in engineering and marketing, because people prefer to work in Milan.