Why Unpaid Factory Workers Are Placing Notes Inside Zara Garments

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Zara is a beloved source of affordable fashion, but the Spanish company has also developed a reputation for supporting unethical labor practices, and now, customers in Turkey are finding mysterious tags inside their clothes that read: “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.”

They have been placed inside the garments by Turkish employees of Bravo Textil, a third-party manufacturer, which shut down last year without paying workers for as much as three months of labor. Bravo also manufactured clothing for Mango and Next, a British fast-fashion retailer, before shuttering literally overnight, leaving employees without severance or compensation for their work.

A petition by ex-Bravo employees has garnered over 20,000 signatures on Change.org, stating:  “We have all laboured for Zara/Inditex, Next, and Mango for years. We made these brands’ products with our own hands, earning huge profits for them. We demand now that these brands give us the basic respect to compensate us for our labour. We demand no more than our basic rights! We call on the international community to support our struggle, sign and share to support our campaign!”

Zara’s parent company, Inditex, told the Independent: “Inditex has met all of its contractual obligations to Bravo Textil and is currently working on a proposal with the local IndustriALL affiliate, Mango and Next to establish a hardship fund for the workers affected by the fraudulent disappearance of the Bravo factory’s owner. This hardship fund would cover unpaid wages, notice indemnity, unused vacation and severance payments of workers that were employed at the time of the sudden shutdown of their factory in July 2016. We are committed to finding a swift solution for all of those impacted.”

It’s far from the first time the fast fashion giant has found itself in hot water. From a rat sewn into a dress to allegations of intellectual property violations by artists and young designers, Zara is seen by many as an ethically bankrupt company concerned only with their bottom line. According to Racked, Zara pulls in $69.8 million in annuals sales, with over 2,200 stores worldwide. Amancio Ortega, who owns Inditex, recently knocked out Bill Gates as the richest person in the world.

And yet, the company has been sued and investigated multiple times for poor working conditions, accused of child and slave labor and of using Syrian refugees as young as fifteen in factories.

“Brands are principal employers,” Bego Demir, a spokesperson for the Clean Clothes Campaign Turkey, which advocates for the rights of factory workers, told The Fashion Law. “They have proven time and again that they control every aspect of their orders to their suppliers. Therefore, it is clear that it is in their power to make sure that all workers who produce their apparel receive their monthly wages and are working in safe conditions, and morally they must do so.”

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