The Associated Press reported earlier this month (Nov 3) that shoppers in Istanbul have found unusual notes on garments sold by fashion retailer Zara.
It came to light that these notes were allegedly complaints left by Turkish workers who claimed that they were not paid for their labor after making the apparels for the brand.
The affected workers, a total of 140 Turkish labourers, were employed by Bravo Tekstil, an outsourced clothing manufacturer for Zara, as well as other fashion retailers such as Mango and Next.
In July 2016, the factory was suddenly shut down and this attributed to the “fraudulent disappearance of the Bravo factory’s owner”.
In a bid to shed light on their predicaments, the affected workers resorted to sewing brief notes on the apparels, hoping that consumers would become aware of the lapses in payments.
According to the affected workers, they claim that the company owes them three months of pay and severance allowance.
The workers have turned to Turkish court to seek justice and have won their case last year. These workers are now legally owed the full three months of pay and severance payments.
Will Zara take responsibility for these workers?
Following the sudden closure of the factory, Zara has initially refused to take responsibility for these 140 Bravo Tekstil workers.
Zara’s parent company, Inditex, has reportedly said in a written statement that the company has “met all of its contractual obligations to Bravo Tekstil”.
However, the crux of the problem is not whether Inditex has met its obligations to Bravo Tekstil. Instead, it should focus on whether Inditex has met its obligations to the Bravo Tekstil workers who created the apparels that were now selling at Zara’s stores.
Inditex has responded to reports that it is working with a trade union as well as Mango and Next to set up a “hardship fund” to help these affected workers.
The company also mentioned that the hardship fund will cover all unpaid wages of the affected workers, notice indemnities as well as unused vacation and severance payments at the time of the sudden shutdown of the Bravo Tekstil factory.
No action taken
More than a year following the closure of the factory, there has yet to be an agreement between Inditex and the union representatives to fully compensate all 140 Bravo Tekstil workers.
Tired of waiting, this led to the workers’ decision to take matters into their own hands.
They have started an online petition to seek the public’s support for their reimbursement.
The campaign states that the workers were seeking a total compensation of 2,739,281.30 Turkish Lira (approximately €650,000). This reportedly constitutes less than 0.01% of Inditex’s net sales in the first quarter of 2017.
The campaign is backed by Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), the largest alliance of labour unions and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) in the garment industry, whose primary focus is to improve the working conditions in garment and sportswear industries.
Currently, the petition has been signed by more than 20,000 people across the globe.