Another day, another news blitz from Zara. If we're not obsessing over the Spanish retailer's new arrivals, we're keeping up with its ongoing controversies — be it its latest round of alleged designer knock-offs, a rodent sewn into a dress, or business malpractices coming from the inside out. Today, the latter is of concern, as Business of Fashion reports that several factory workers in Istanbul, Turkey are slipping cries for help in the form of handwritten notes into the pockets of in-store merchandise. After shoppers began to discover unusual tags attached to or tucked into their garments, it was clear that an underground campaign from factory workers who made the pieces was brewing.
"I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn't get paid for it," is just one example of the words allegedly written on the tags. Essentially, the notes are meant to put pressure on the shopper to send a message to the top that the retailer's factory workers are going uncompensated for as long as up to three months and without severance pay. The tags reportedly state that the workers are employed by Bravo Tekstil, one of Zara's factories based in Istanbul. The factory, which also produces clothing for Next and Mango, allegedly closed last year following similar allegations. But this isn't the first time Zara has been the target of its discontented Turkish employees.
After the shutdown of the manufacturing company in July 2016, workers launched an online petition demanding the mega-retailers they'd been hocking clothing for dole out their overdue pay. It's reported that, despite having over a year to do so, neither Zara (which makes up 75% of the factory's overall output) nor Next or Mango, have been able to reach a solution to pay the some 140 workers employed by Bravo Tekstil. Not only are the clothing companies responsible for every aspect of the production of their merchandise, but they reserve the right to randomly shut down their manufacturing centers, too, which isn't uncommon in the fast-fashion realm of the industry, but contributes to the ongoing crisis of little to zero protections for factory workers and their hard earned pay.
What's interesting about these revelations, though, is the fact that factory workers are going into the stores to disrupt the post-production process, as opposed to sewing their mission into the tags before the items hit stores. Upon hearing of this news, Refinery29 reached out to Zara for comment and was provided with the following statement from an Inditex spokesperson: "Inditex has met all of its contractual obligations to Bravo Textil [sic] 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."