Zara’s parent company, Inditex, is in full-on damage-control mode after tags bearing messages such as “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it,” began turning up in garments earlier this month.
The tags, which were discovered by shoppers in the retailer’s Istanbul stores, were placed inside garments by Turkish workers employed by Bravo Tekstil, one of Inditex’s local manufacturing factories, and call on shoppers to support them by pressuring the fast fashion giant into paying them. In July 2016, the factory shuttered overnight after Bravo’s factory owner disappeared with the money Inditex and other fashion companies, such as Mango and Next, had paid — and without paying its 155 laborers. The manufacturer owes workers three months of pay and severance allowance, but a year later, workers have yet to be compensated.
Inditex is allegedly in the process of establishing a “hardship fund” with Mango, Next and IndustriALL, a global workers’ union representing 50 million laborers in 140 countries, to help the factory workers. According to Inditex, the 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.” However, the initiative feels like too little too late — more than a year has gone by since the unexpected shutdown of the Bravo factory and no money has been transferred to workers.
Inditex’s disinterest is what spurred workers into action. In addition to the tags, workers launched a petition on Change.org, calling on the international community to support its struggle. According to the petition, negotiations between Inditex, Mango and Next and the workers’ representatives have been long and drawn out, with the fast fashion giants counter-offering the amount asked for by workers.
“For 12 months, we waited for the conclusion of these negotiations with patience and hope,” the petition reads. “To prevent any disruptions to the negotiations, we endured them in silence. However, after an entire year the brands declared that they will only pay just over a quarter of our claim. In other words, the brands accepted their liability, but they thought we deserve no more than their scraps.”
It’s undeniable that Bravo Tekstil’s former owner is at fault for the situation the factory workers currently find themselves in, but in a time when consumers are increasingly scrutinizing companies’ performance on human rights and supply chain transparency, Inditex’s refusal to act is likely to have a damaging impact on its brand reputation.